Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: The Blackfish effect

A CNN documentary entitled “Blackfish” revealed the dangers of keeping killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld. Animal rights activists have always been sensitive to the captivated whales, and this film extended the concern to the broader public.

According to National Geographic, this mass response and passionate conversation around this controversy has been informally dubbed “The Blackfish Effect.” Since the film’s debut in October, viewers of the film have been inspired to speak up about SeaWorld’s controversial practices in regards to keeping, training and exploiting their killer whales while in captivity.

The sudden spike and nature of the conversation around this issue resembles of “The Kony Effect” from two years ago. And, well, we all know how long that one lasted.

Despite the hashtags, Facebook pages, Change.org petitions and protests, these whales are still kept captive in tanks usually no bigger than 50-feet wide in SeaWorld parks around the United States. Despite the passionate uproar against the corporation after the Blackfish hit the big screen, SeaWorld announced Monday that it expects record-breaking revenue of $1.46 billion dollars for the 2013 fiscal year.

Much like any animal, killer whales are not made for captivity. The standard 48-feet tanks aren’t conducive to the whale’s 12,000-pound bodies that can grow as large as a school bus – especially for those who were torn away from their native habitat in the endless waters of the world’s oceans

Activists can and will continue their conversations, protests and social media posts, but as long as the eager audiences keep coming to SeaWorld, killer whales will continue to awe their audiences with tricks.

SeaWorld claims they benefit their whales by giving them adequate care and a safe and healthy environment to live in. But, after more than 40 documented incidents including several deaths and injuries to humans by these natural predators, something is not right.

Yet if SeaWorld’s famous killer whale parks continue to generate billions of dollars in revenue and endless entertainment, can’t we just push the occasional fatalities and injuries under the rug?  When copious amounts of money are involved, the space under the rug of our society just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Our society is driven by revenue and profits, and this is just the systematic way of the capitalist world we live in.

The market dictates the flow of the society, and we as consumers are in control of it. So, if we know the dark secrets of lucrative corporations, such as Sea World, why do we continue to invest our money and attention in them? If all of the hashtags and Facebook posts in response to Blackfish were turned into actual activism, SeaWorld would have run out of business as soon as Blackfish went viral.

Consumers are in control of righting the wrongs of such big corporations and industries. If we want tobacco companies to stop tempting us with cigarettes, then everyone simply should stop smoking. If we want the garment industry to stop subjecting employees in third world countries to inhumane working conditions, then we must stop buying cheap clothing produced in Bangladesh. And the same goes for SeaWorld. If we want these killer whales to go back into the wild where they belong then, well, we need to stop buying tickets pouring billions of dollars into SeaWorld Entertainment’s account each year.

Although “Blackfish” is widely available on the Internet, not everyone is going to pay attention to it or even know the film exists. There are more than 300 million Americans, and unless the news is about an election or a tax hike, all of us aren’t going to hear or care about the news.

As social media continues to boom, “Blackfish effects” will continue to happen, only to be replaced when another groundbreaking controversy is revealed. Over the course of this summer, the conversations shifted from Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, to the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop. 8, to the impending war on Syria. We live in a generation where our opinions are transient and passions are fleeting. Something much bigger than a killer whale with a collapsed dorsal fin at SeaWorld has got to happen to hold our attention.

We may be talking about “Blackfish” and SeaWorld now, but what happens when Chris Christie allegedly exalts political revenge on another New Jersey mayor? We’ll talk about Chris Christie, of course.

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