Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Save the Whales…Just Keep Them Away From Me!

I have a fear of whales.

“Fear of” as in it’s hard for me to look at pictures of them. Especially those cetacean charts where they’re all lined up by size.

Obviously this shouldn’t affect my daily life, and it hadn’t until now. I opened up to a couple people about my “cetaphobia” and the reactions varied from “You? You love all animals…why whales?” which I categorized as shock laced with sadness, to sheer glee at the prospect of exploiting a perceived weakness.

Either way, I took it upon myself to eradicate this phobia a) because it’s really pathetic and b) people kept sending me pictures of open-mouthed orcas. My friend Jaimie helped me figure out WHICH whales I am most afraid of.

Me: I am okay with humpbacks, um bowheads, and blue whales but I am terrified of orcas and minke whales…oh and some porpoises and pilot whales…and sperm whales!

Jaimie: I didn’t even know there were that many kinds of whales. What the heck is a minke whale?

Me: It’s a smaller kind of whale, like 30 feet or so I think. They’re really fast, one of the fastest. I think that’s why they’re scary. Dart-shaped…

Jaimie: But you aren’t afraid of humpback whales?

Me: No, because they’re so big; if I were in the water with them I would be petrified but I can watch those on television but not the others – they’re shiny and really fast.

Jaimie: How do you feel at Sea World?

Me: I can totally do that, it’s mostly pictures where they’re coming at you with their mouths open and the thought of being near them in the wild that’s so scary.

Since I narrowed it down, I decided to confront my fear. How did I do this? I decided to visit and there I figured I could see whales in a way that was helpful since Sea Shepherd’s are dedicated to saving them. I did and I do not recommend going on YouTube after that for “more research” then watching whales in Denmark, or dolphins in Japan being slaughtered…can’t believe that shit still happens. If you care, visit – and I hope you care.

However, I did see some whales and desensitized myself. Then a coworker sent me the story of the orca that killed a woman at Sea World back in February. I started looking at pictures of her with the whale “Tilikum” and I was like, “Okay, she’s standing on his nose. There she is kissing his tongue (dis-gusting). Okay, she’s lying on top of him. This is getting weirder.”

I wanted to look more into this Tilikum whale to find out how he got mixed up in people-killing. Although, standing on my nose six times a day for years on end would piss me off too. On CBS News I came across THIS:

Tilikum was known to be a difficult animal. Only about a dozen of the SeaWorld's 29 trainers worked with him. [He] was involved in two previous deaths and was one of three animals involved in the 1991 death of a trainer. And in 1999, a homeless man's body was found draped over Tilikum. That man died of hypothermia. It's not clear if Tilikum contributed to his demise.

Despite obvious jokes about this being a “Killer Whale” I thought the language of the article was odd. It was like reading a rap sheet as if the whale were a person. He’s “difficult” and was “involved in two previous deaths” and we’re not sure if he “contributed to [homeless dude’s] demise”. Now, it’s crazy odd that a man was sprawled naked over the whale; I am imaginative but am at a loss to figure that out…I think the bottom line is “IT’S A WHALE”. Do you see what these things do to seals in the wild??? And even if they’re primarily the fish-eating kind, they are still capable – take Tilikum who can now tattoo three teardrops on his face. The answer about the motivations of this animal are that it’s an ANIMAL.

This has been an interesting journey for me. What started as confronting a fear turned into research and a newly developed belief that boycotting Sea World and other dolphin-ariums is the only fair and safe way we should be spending time with these creatures – in the wild and FAR AWAY from me and you.

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