The Whale and Human Relationship on Film

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We've covered the dangers captive orcas pose when in close proximity to people—read Blood in the Water and Killer in the Pool. This morning, news broke that PETA and some former whale trainers plan to sue SeaWorld, saying that the company is in violation of the 13th amendment's ban on slavery.

“By any definition, these orcas are slaves—kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that's natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld's profit,” PETA Counsel Jeff Kerr told the AP. “The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away.”

A law professor told the AP by email that the suit would likely be dismissed. “The court will most likely not even get to the merits of the case, and find that the plaintiffs do not have standing to file the lawsuit at all,” says David Favre of Michigan State University.

The somewhat shocking statements will continue to make waves around the web even if the suit itself has no chance. The news brings to mind a less inflammatory story about the relationship between humans and orcas. The Whale is a film narrated by Ryan Reynolds that tells the story of an orphaned orca named Luna who establishes a relationship with the people of Vancouver Island. Luna does everything he can to attract attention and human contact.

The movie does not ignore the dangers that can result from human/orca contact, but the film's producers say the movie does not take sides on the issue of orcas and captivity—though producers have willingly made statements about the issue of captivity.

The film does not take a position on this or any other facet of the politics of wildlife management. It was our intention to tell a story, not to tell people how to think. The film does, however, show the life of a free whale, which looks amazingly energetic and you could almost say enthusiastic compared to life in a concrete tank. From the beginning of our work with this wild orca, we knew that permanent captivity would be tragic for him, as it is for all orcas. For orcas, we personally think captivity is cruel, degrading, and inhumane, and can be dangerous for both the animals and their trainers.

The Whale
will be screening at select theatres this winter from Massachusetts to Washington.

–Joe Spring

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