Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits or reasoning skills to inanimate objects or animals not capable of such dimensions. I think it would be safe to say that most of us are guilty of anthropomorphising something at one stage in our lives – I know I have extensive conversations with my dog on a daily basis. However, anthropomorphism can be an uneasy subject in regards to animals in captivity.
Blackfish is a documentary concerning captive orcas at SeaWorld, the deaths of three trainers and the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity. After watching this film, I immediately developed some kind of attachment and emotion towards these animals. Anthropomorphism can occur unintentionally e.g. me talking to my dog, but in regards to SeaWorld’s treatment of the orcas, it can create all kinds of issues.
Following the release of the documentary, Blackfish drove activists and protesters on a mission to put an end to the orca theatrical shows. SeaWorld has recently decided that they will stop the breeding of the whales and this will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. The film also had a very large impact on SeaWorld’s financial side of things. According to SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. Reports, SeaWorld suffered an 84% drop in its net second-quarter income; from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015.
Evaluating the film, I recognised the ways the trainers were treating the animals were totally humane. We are told that the whales are kept in enclosures barely big enough to contain them in and separated whales from their families. I believe that because of this type of treatment, led to the aggressive behaviour that some of the whales have demonstrated. The film explains that there have been many trainer-related injuries and deaths during shows and training, but there have been no reports what so ever about a killer whale harming a human in the wild.
When referring to Tilikim’s state of mind in the movie, there are a lot of “he seemed” statements: “He seemed to enjoy working with the trainers” … “In the morning he seemed happy to see us”. He was also described as to be “frustrated” and even suggested that he could have been in a psychosis. The trainers explain how they formed “special bonds” with the animals, and I think by treating them this way, they had somewhat shut out the real identity of the animal and what they are capable of.