After a long battle with animal rights activists, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. has reached an agreement with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to stop its killer whale breeding program.
This change was in part motivated by intense pressure from groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as well as individuals on social media, television, and in politics. The backlash and major push to end performing whales at SeaWorld materialized after the release of a documentary in 2013 titled Blackfish.
SeaWorld argued that it takes complete care for its animals, and even went through a publicity campaign to help the public understand what they really do. Print and television ads spotlighted their treatment of these whales, the emotional attachment they have with the whales, and how much they care about their well-being.
Additionally, SeaWorld started a website called AskSeaWorld.com, which sought to inform the public by allowing people to connect directly with SeaWorld trainers and experts in order to have all of their questions answered. These questions are submitted through social media and then presented on the website for all to see. It was meant to be a resource for those who held skepticism about the everyday happenings at SeaWorld parks.
Unfortunately, all of these efforts weren’t successful, and the company was forced to drastically alter its facilities, equipment, and procedures at its killer whale habitats. Surely this had to appease the animal rights activists, right?
Once again, this was not enough for animal rights activists who wish to see all animal entertainment abolished. Multiple ad campaigns were run to sully SeaWorld’s reputation and force it to make the ultimate change.
PETA, who also happened to own shares of stock in SeaWorld, wanted to have a greater impact on its business dealings from a social perspective, but many believe that this was also done from a financial perspective in order to benefit from a shareholder lawsuit against SeaWorld following the Blackfish documentary release.
Regardless of the reasoning, it worked. SeaWorld has now decided to cease the breeding of whales at its facilities, effectively ending their current role at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld President and CEO Joel Manby on the decision and the company’s new focus, in a news release:
“As one of the largest rescue organizations in the world, we will increase our focus on rescue operations — so that the thousands of stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions that cannot be released back to the wild will have a place to go.”
The decision will affect all SeaWorld parks, in San Diego (CA), San Antonio (TX), and Orlando (FL), and will completely transform SeaWorld’s business model going forward.
The major question surrounding this decision is about its partnership with HSUS specifically and how SeaWorld benefits from this arrangement.
It’s no surprise that HSUS would have its hands in the issue, as it has the financial resources and motivation to seemingly make any change it wants in animal use in the United States. By partnering with HSUS, SeaWorld may see these resources as a new strategy to win back lost support from activists. It’s better to side with the enemy with vast resources than continue to fight the uphill battle against them, or so the thinking must go.
HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle on the partnership:
“SeaWorld’s commitment to end breeding of orcas is a long-held goal of many animal advocacy organizations, and we commend the company for making this game-changing commitment. Today we turn a corner, working together to achieve solutions on a wide set of animal issues including sunsetting the use of orcas at existing facilities and maximizing SeaWorld’s focus on rescue, rehabilitation, and advocacy for marine mammals in the wild”
Ignoring the obvious insincerity of that statement for a minute, it’s easy to see this from an emotional side of the argument. The whales are technically in captivity, so that can be viewed as mistreatment. It does not matter how well they are cared for and if they are actually happy or not; just the mere fact that they are being used for human entertainment is wrong in the eyes of HSUS and its followers.
Whether the subject is animal agriculture, hunting, pet breeding, pet ownership, or animal entertainment, HSUS will continue to oppose all use of animals because at their core these activists believe in equal rights for animals. Welfare is irrelevant to them, because they equate animal ownership and exhibition with slavery.
Perhaps HSUS and PETA should focus on their own organizations before turning their focus to others. HSUS is currently attacking Oklahoma lawmakers for introducing a bill which would affect its fundraising in the state following controversy surrounding HSUS fundraising practices after a natural disaster in 2013. PETA is dealing with a special brand of hypocrisy right now. We wrote yesterday about how the group was responsible for almost 1,500 animal deaths at is Virginia shelter last year alone, and over 35,000 since 1998. Instead of attempting to free whales which are already being treated well, PETA could address existing animal cruelty under its own watch.
Sadly, that will never happen. Groups like these will not take responsibility for their own misdoings, nor will they cease the reckless attacks on anyone who stands in the way of their global agenda.