Ok...I feel the need to weigh in on this one. I watched Blackfish on CNN and I also have visited Seaworld Orlando before the tragic event there at the jaws of Tillikum.
Although I have made many visits to animal parks (and seriously considered a career in one as an RVT) and aquariums over the years I have often questioned: At what cost to the animals was this afforded to me? Something more people in general should consider.
I do believe we need zoos and aquariums, responsible conservation based ones. Those that use animals that have been rehabbed but unable to return to the wild or animals born in captivity through responsible breeding programs. Establishments that allow suitable housing for these animals to do what is natural to them. Certainly not ones snatched from their own environment for the sake of our entertainment.
Isn't the beauty of an animal best expressed when it's naturally doing what is normal to it? vs. Watching it perform in a tank with a human doing tricks we have trained it to do? Like in the case of Tillikum and the other whales in Blackfish.
Everyone should be aware that training an animal is often asking and rewarding it to do a particular behaviour we want, on demand,which may or may not be a natural behaviour for them. This is done solely for our needs to maintain and keep them.
Don't get me wrong, training animals in captivity is necessary to ensure their health and well being, in order to transfer to other areas,medicate etc. But there is no 100% reliable training method. At any given time an animal may choose to buck this system which can cause harm not only to their trainers but themselves as well.
The methods of training used for wild animals in captivity are often used in domestic animals whom on a great day will also not respond as requested. It does not shock me that a wild creature would also not be 100% reliable,as in the case of Tillikum. A killer whale who had also had other negative encounters with people in the past. Would we keep putting a behaviourally unstable dog (that was trained but not reliable and had previous encounters with attack) in a situation of continuously asking it to perform in an unnatural environment which is stress inducing itself? Likely not.
It is our responsibility as patrons to ensure the parks we are going to, and exposing future generations to, are there for the right reasons. We need to ensure we visit parks that only doing the best conservation work possible. Parks that respect wild animals and know we are better served through observation of these beautiful creatures, not entertainment shows.
We collectively have a much bigger voice then any documentary and we should all consider using it. Making an educated decision about what zoological park or aquarium to visit and only choosing those with solid conservation efforts and respect for all creatures as opposed to the showy entertainment factor is a great first step.