I’ve never had pets of my own. To go to someone’s house for a sleepover and find out they owned a cat or dog was the most devastating news I could hear, and ultimately it meant I would have to go home.
But I’m not heartless. I’m just allergic.
The topic for this week was “A Bloody Business: Communicating animal suffering” and boy did that live up to its title. Sitting in my tutorial and watching clips of animals subjected to cruelty for the pleasure of humans was a really eye-opening topic for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve never actually been able to be around animals, but I’ve simply never thought about cruelty towards animals before.
Like most other kids, I went to the aquarium as a special treat. I thought it was amazing, seeing all these wild creatures that we wouldn’t be able to see under normal circumstances. But what you don’t think about is how those animals came to be living in an aquarium, what they’re missing out on, and the family that they got taken from.
Watching Blackfish changed all these thoughts. I watched in horror as baby Orcas were trapped and kidnapped, leaving behind an inconsolable mother crying out in long-range vocals for her baby.
It reminded me very much of the Stolen Generations – with hindsight it is obvious to us how unforgivable these acts were. With all of this knowledge, why are we repeating history and inflicting this pain on to our wild Orcas – a species that has been proven to have a phenomenally developed emotional capacity.
Lori Marino, a neuroscientist prominently featured in ‘Blackfish’ states
“If you look at, say, the brain of an orca [and] the brain of a human, it would be difficult to say that the human brain was capable of more emotional depth than the orca brain, because what you see in the orca brain is an elaboration on the limbic area that the human brain doesn’t have.”
It is evident that the Orcas in captivity are suffering. The average lifespan of an Orca in captivity is only 9, but in the wild orcas live lifespans similar to that of humans, and can live up to 70-80 years. In the wild, there has never been a report of an orca harming a human being. But in captivity it is a very different figure; there have been three known deaths of orca trainers since 1991 and many others have been injured.
To me it is really clear that we as a society need to have a discussion about the treatment of orcas in captivity, and figure out if we are prepared to continue this detrimental cycle for human enjoyment.