When my sisters and I were small my family would spend about a month of the summer in California. The reason being we had family there. We had family in the UK too so let’s just the say the real reason was because it was California! Sunshine, shopping, beaches and THEME PARKS.

We went to Disneyland three summers on the trot. We have hilarious photos of my dad wearing a Mickey Ears hat, sporting his Magnum, P.I. moustache. We met the Princesses, my younger sister bit one of the Three Little Pigs on the nose and my older sister and I bickered over who got to hold Mary Poppins’ frilly parasol (I won). At night my dad would take us out to the hotel carpark and we’d sit on the bonnet of the car to watch the fireworks. It was great.

You’d think Disney would be my highlight but no. My top pick was SEAWORLD. I’ve always been an animal lover and I loved SeaWorld with a passion. You could feed dolphins by hand! You could pet real live stingrays!

Dolphin Buggy
My sister even got to ride around in a dolphin!

But the real draw were the orcas. Or “killer whales” as we called them then. SeaWorld’s orca shows were spectacular. Orcas performing in the water to music. I always wanted to sit in the “Splash Zone” but my mother, ever practical, would insist we sit further back. We’d have a much better view and more importantly her three kids would remain dry.

We went home. Then we moved. We didn’t go back to California the following summer and I forgot all about SeaWorld.

The world’s most popular marine mammal park carried on doing its thing, making millions of dollars in the process… then on 24th February 2010 something happened that would change the way we view orcas in captivity.

Tilikum, SeaWorld’s largest male orca, attacked and killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of a horrified audience.

Dawn Brancheau
SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau

To go through all the details of this story would take up pages and pages. So instead I will implore you to watch Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s gripping film Blackfish.

Watch the trailer here

tilikum seaworld

This film is incredible and the impact it has had on SeaWorld and marine parks around the globe has been huge.

We didn’t know then what we know now. We can’t undo past mistakes but we can learn from them.

I, for one, sincerely hope they empty the tanks.

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