Animal Rights| We’ve Lost Tilikum, but the Fight is Only Just Beginning

It’s taken me a while to put this post together as I wasn’t dealing well with the news that Tilikum, the infamous orca from Blackfish, had passed away. I wanted to make this post matter – to show that his life did matter, and that his death has not gone unnoticed.

At first, I didn’t know why I was as upset as I was – I’d never met this animal, and hoped that I never would, unless he was allowed to retire to a sea pen. I even voiced my concern to some of my closest friends; it just didn’t hit me that this animal had cemented my belief that I was put on this earth for another reason – to be a voice for the voiceless.

It definitely took me a good five days to actually process that Tilly was now gone – that he’d finally succumbed to the illness that has been plaguing him for a very long time. However, when I started to think about his life more, it came to me that his death was much more than a big, red, angry finger pointing at SeaWorld – it was the beginning of something new.

Tilly’s Life in a Tank

See, before he passed away, Tilly was paraded around the pool and when his health declined, it seemed as though SeaWorld would only put out updates on his health when pushed severely by people who cared about him. I don’t know exact facts, but I can tell you from checking the Tilikum hashtag on twitter daily, the majority of people concerned for his health were those who believed he shouldn’t be in a bathtub.

Now that he has passed away, the whole world is now focussed on SeaWorld, much like it was back in 2010 when Blackfish brought the plight of captive Killer Whales to the tv screens of the world. There are more people than ever learning about Tilikum, and more people wanting to know exactly what happened to him.

Currently, we have no autopsy results, and there are countless petitions (just like this one|) which are asking SeaWorld to let the world know his necropsy results – after all, there are a lot of “Shamu” fans who want to know what happened to Tilly, too – it’s not just us “crazy anti-caps”.

Something Positive

As deeply saddened as I am that Tilly never got to go back to the ocean to spend his years in natural waters – and don’t forget that killer whales have an average life expectancy of 30-50 years old (Tilly’ was literally just over this average, which isn’t seen very often in the wild – orca seem to thrive well over this average) – I really am glad that he’s finally able to be free of the torment that he was enduring in captivity. He wasn’t socialised with many other whales as they all bullied him, and after the sad death of Dawn, he wasn’t the subject of much interaction, it seems.

But his death is not in vain – in fact, it’s the start of a brand new movement. People who were originally hesitant of listening to what Blackfish and the scientists who support it are saying are finally paying attention. They’re realising that the sudden death of a prolific animal is something to question, and with more questions comes more pressure.

The stance on captivity is still a taboo subject for many people, but it proves that education works. Just today, we’ve heard the fantastic news that the Ringling Brothers Circus is closing after 100 years of using animals in their shows – a practice that many countries around the world have already banned because of the abuse that these animals suffer in the name of human entertainment – do you really think elephants naturally know how to walk around a ring on their back legs for minutes on end? Or what about the tigers? Have they really evolved to balance comically on a ball and walk around on it? Noooooope!

SeaWorld is essentially a circus, and with one of the most iconic animal circuses finally calling it a day, it’s only a matter of time before people turn their attention to places like SeaWorld.

Thank you, Tilly. You may have had a horrendous life, but even in death, you’re helping to bring attention to those of your “pod” who are still suffering in these parks. We love you.

7-Tilikum

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