Tomorrow has the potential to make a big impact on my life. My best friend and I might be seeing Blackfish, the new documentary that primarily focuses on the killer whale, Tilikum, who drowned his trainer, Dawn Brancheau in 2010. It also touches on captivity and the way animals, particularly killer whales, are treated at SeaWorld.
The first time my family took me to SeaWorld, I was seven years old. I am not exaggerating when I saw that that one visit changed my life. I fell utterly and completely in love with the ocean and everything in it. I loved the sharks, the dolphins, the coral reefs, the sea lions, the orcas, everything. I spent my entire childhood reading every marine life book I could get my hands on. I watched all the little kid documentaries, I constantly drew pictures and made clay sculptures of whales and dolphins, and, when I got old enough, I went to SeaWorld Camp.
To this day, my weeks at camp were some of the greatest moments of my life.
Now, I hear arguments all the time that people should not be interacting with these wild animals, etc… But I never thought it was a bad thing. This sort of interaction and exposure has given me the gift of a lifetime; a deep and profound love for something completely beyond myself.
It’s true, I love writing and I want to be an author, but my lifelong dream has always been to work with marine mammals. I used to want to be a trainer, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I’d rather volunteer my time with conservation and rescue/rehabilitation efforts. And when the day comes that I have the funds to do so, that is exactly what I plan to do. (Maybe I should make that my catchphrase: Buy a copy of Cemetery Tours, help save a dolphin!)
I can’t, as a person who loves these animals, say that captivity is okay or preferable. It’s horrible to take an animal from their home and put them in a pool solely for profit. But SeaWorld does not do that anymore. At least, that’s what we were told at camp. And although I can not speak for the organization or the big corporations, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the people who work with those animals love them with all their hearts.
I’ll be honest with you. A part of me is dreading seeing Blackfish, just because I know it’s going to break my heart and make me cry. I’m terrified that everything I thought I knew about the place I’ve loved for so long and that taught me to love these beautiful animals might have been a lie all these years. But I feel like it’s been too big a part of my life to ignore it.
I love those animals and I always will. I want what’s best for them. And I hope that no one thinks badly of me for my lifelong relationship with SeaWorld. I don’t regret it. It taught me more about life and love than anything in the real world ever could. I just hope it hasn’t come at a cost.