How SeaWorld’s Pursuit to Personify Its Whales Backfired

How SeaWorld’s Pursuit to Personify Its Whales Backfired

Photo by Sam Hodgson

An orca performs at SeaWorld San Diego's One Ocean show.

A few years ago, now, SeaWorld ran a Twitter feed for Shamu. It was a playful satire pretending that the ubiquitous identity of all its killer whales — Shamu — was actually an audacious, sarcastic show-off.

It was popular. Some of Shamu’s posts traveled far, amplified by dozens of retweets. Shamu would make fun of the sexual attractiveness of Norwegian curlers. He would laugh about other animals and react to visitors who came to SeaWorld and tweeted their joy.

Through Shamu, SeaWorld personified the killer whale. And he was funny.

Scott Lewis on Politics LogoBut then, on Feb. 25, 2010, Shamu abruptly stopped tweeting. It was a day after a whale, Tilikum, killed a SeaWorld trainer. He mutilated her, really.

Shamu issued a farewell tweet. He had lost his boyish sarcasm. He was no longer a killer whale, actually. He became SeaWorld: “At this difficult time, Shamu will not be active,” the feed said. And that was it.

Suddenly, personifying the whale had gotten extremely awkward for the company. If Shamu was a person, he had just committed a brutal murder.

The tragedy would go on to become the central drama of the documentary “Blackfish,” which poured a tank of gasoline on what had been a limited fire of discontent about SeaWorld.

It wasn’t the first time SeaWorld had personified its whales, though, and it wouldn’t be the last.

It did it again Sunday. The U-T ran a point-counterpoint about the controversy.

The company chose a veteran trainer to explain just how much SeaWorld appreciates its whales. To counter, the U-T presented a piece from Richard Bloom, the assemblyman from Santa Monica who wants to ban orca shows at SeaWorld.

In his defense of SeaWorld, Mike Scarpuzzi, the trainer, wrote a rather startling claim (emphasis mine):

“Connecting people to animals is a powerful, proven way to promote wildlife conservation. But with that comes the obligation to provide these animals, who are ambassadors for their species, the best care possible,” he wrote.

Scarpuzzi would have been better off acknowledging that it was probably not an ideal life but their sacrifice was worth the benefits to their species. Ambassadors for their species? That’s some Orwellian lingo. It’s as though he’s saying, no, these are not prisoners. They’re living a good life while they serve as ambassadors for their species.

That’s not the case here. An ambassador is appointed by her people to serve abroad. She can roam freely and she even has a certain amount of diplomatic immunity.

SeaWorld seems to want it both ways. They want us to come to Shamu shows and see how human-like, how sentient and smart the animals are. The whales wave and smile.

This bond cuts both ways. The more we feel like they are of us, the more we wonder why they are captive and made to perform for sustenance.

Some have poked at our recent coverage of SeaWorld and the quest to understand its role in San Diego that Lisa Halverstadt has been pursuing. When we point out how devastating to SeaWorld the bill would be or when we surface how deeply interested City Hall is in SeaWorld profits, some take it as though we’re defending the company.

Halverstadt’s coverage, however, has only made me more disturbed and worried. The “Blackfish” panic is gaining steam. Is San Diego ready for what may come?

No.

Yet, look at the headlines. When the assemblyman, Bloom, announced he was trying to ban orca shows at SeaWorld, the U-T and 10News had SurveyUSA poll San Diegans on the issue. They found that 49 percent thought the shows should remain legal.

That’s a plurality.

But it’s not a majority. The rest of those polled were either unsure whether the killer whale shows should be legal or thought they should simply be prohibited.

Can you imagine if 51 percent of your community was either convinced your business activity should be prohibited or they were unsure?

Look at the U-T itself, which has run two major commentaries mocking and decrying the so-called Blackfish bill, one of them unsigned by the editorial board, and one by Steven Greenhut, the conservative thinker on state policy issues.

Neither of these pieces helped ease my concern. Neither was willing to defend and articulate the morality of what SeaWorld was doing. Here’s the U-T’s position: “There may be legitimate questions about whether orcas should be kept in captivity. But Bloom’s legislation would not free a single whale.”

So a bill that actually freed the whales would be acceptable?

And here’s Greenhut:

“Whatever one thinks about the wisdom or seriousness of Bloom’s bill, there’s a reasonable discussion to be had about whether these magnificent creatures — accustomed to swimming 100 miles a day in the wild — are being humanely treated in their present tank-sized circumstance,” he wrote.

Remember this is in a column defending SeaWorld against this legislative attack.

Greenhut’s case is similar to the U-T’s unsigned take: The bill wouldn’t actually free orcas, some SeaWorld critics aren’t bright and legislators should work on more important laws.

That’s it. That’s his case. “If I were a killer whale, I probably wouldn’t want to be kept in captivity,” Greenhut writes.

Me neither.

So here’s where we are: The Legislature will consider a bill that would ban orca shows. Even a majority of San Diegans is not against it. And the two most prominent defenses of SeaWorld in the local media acknowledge the moral concern but don’t like the bill because it actually does not go far enough.

If I’m the PR manager for SeaWorld, I’m worried. This is a genuine existential threat.

Which gets us back to San Diego and our quest. The idea that SeaWorld could easily absorb the elimination of killer whale shows — that the company could easily pivot to a more acceptable business model — is naïve.

It’s time to understand SeaWorld’s place in San Diego because its efforts to personify whales, to make us empathize with them, have profoundly backfired.

Yet SeaWorld is tied to our economy and our city government.

If the company doesn’t have a plan for handling this beyond further personifying the whales as ambassadors, we’re going to need to get one ourselves.

This is part of our Quest: SeaWorld series digging into the park’s impact on our region. Check out the previous story – SeaWorld Execs: ‘Blackfish’ Isn’t Hurting Business – and the next in our series  Three Big Moral Questions ‘Blackfish’ Raises.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

Join us TODAY as we present A New Vision for SeaWorld at 50 -- or just drive by and Honk in support!

CONTACT:
Martha Sullivan, 858-945-6273, marthasullivan@mac.com

A NEW VISION FOR SEA WORLD AT 50!
Concerned San Diegans Will Display a Message on SeaWorld's 50th Anniversary

San Diego — Concerned San Diegans will display a message for A New Vision for SeaWorld on its 50th Anniversary, outside the location where it was founded.

WHEN: Noon to 3 pm on Friday, March 21, 2014

WHERE: Sea World Drive at Sea World Way, San Diego

WHO/WHAT:
March 21, 2014, is the 50th Anniversary of SeaWorld, which started right here in San Diego. San Diegans concerned for the safety and welfare of the captive orcas and their human trainers will once more demonstrate outside the entrance to SeaWorld San Diego.

This Demonstration will be different in showcasing a new vision for Sea World in the 21st Century, based upon Dr. Naomi Rose's proposal for seaside sanctuaries to which captive marine animal performers can retire and as recently proposed in AB 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.

Jane Cartmill, President of San Diego Animal Advocates, will be available to interview onsite as well as a Spanish-speaking spokesperson.

“We envision SeaWorld as it should always have been - providing real education in an eco-conscious environment." – Jane Cartmill, President of San Diego Animal Advocates.

VISUALS: Demonstrators will hold a series of signs and a banner on the public sidewalk along Sea World Drive near Sea World Way, laying out the New Vision for SeaWorld at 50.

BACKGROUND:
With the recent introduction of AB 2140 by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, people who have been concerned for the safety and welfare of captive orcas and their human trainers have a concrete legislative proposal to advocate.

“There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said when he introduced the bill. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.”

AB 2140 is designed to: end the use of performing orcas in theme shows, ban captive breeding and prohibit the import and export of the so-called “killer” whales in California. Currently, SeaWorld San Diego is the only place in California where orcas are kept captive, with 10 currently held: Corky (wild caught in Canada,1970), Kasatka (wild caught in Iceland, 1979), Ulises (wild caught in Iceland, 1980), and captive-born Orkid, Keet, Shouka, Nakai, Ikaika, Kalia and Makani.

San Diego's Mayor and City Council should be concerned about a continuing decline in visitors to SeaWorld here in San Diego if SeaWorld continues to ignore the growing movement for humane animal treatment worldwide. San Diego IS a world class tourist destination, and we need to embrace this movement to maintain this stature.

Financial success need not be predicated on the captivity of highly intelligent, socially sophisticated marine mammals in wholly unnatural conditions.

The last captive cetacean park in the United Kingdom closed in 1993. Catalonia banned the centuries-old tradition of bullfighting in Spain over two years ago. Last year, India banned captive cetaceans, joining Chile, Costa Rica and Hungary. India banned "any person/persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import [or] capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever."

As recently reported by the Voice of San Diego, Disney's two theme parks in Anaheim and Universal Studios' park in Hollywood each draw more visitors and revenue than any of SeaWorld Entertainment's parks. Captive orcas are forced to live in 1/1000th of the space in their natural habitat, forced to perform tricks on command for food with loud music blaring, exposed nightly to loud fireworks, placed in tanks with other orcas not from their natural pod creating conflict and physical harm and also isolated because of these unnatural social groupings, and bred artificially. SeaWorld Entertainment's need for genetic diversity in its stock leads it to seek out wild-caught orcas, such as Morgan, a young, weakened female orca rescued offshore the Netherlands which SeaWorld Entertainment petitioned to have transferred to its partner park, Loro Parque in the Canary Islands (Spain), where six of SeaWorld's orcas are on paid loan. The original permit to capture Morgan was predicated on her rehabilitation and return to the wild.

SeaWorld Entertainment could use the incredible digital technology available today to simulate the REAL Sea World, just as more and more worldwide corporations are using digital and other advanced technology to eliminate the need to use live animals for testing drugs and consumer products.

On the occasion of SeaWorld's 50th Anniversary founding here in San Diego, concerned San Diegans are calling upon SeaWorld Entertainment to embrace the 21st Century. It is more apparent than ever that successful businesses adapt to changes in their market, or they fail.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-sea-world-ad-san-diego-airport-peta-aclu-20140320,0,630772.story?track=rss

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ResedaJohn
ResedaJohn subscriber

Thanks for the thoughtful article.  Very exciting to imagine a world free of cetacean captivity, and it is upon us.  Sea World can't even defend itself with any sense.  True sign of imminent demise.  San Diego economy will survive.  Grateful to "Blackfish." 

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Let’s get real specific about the other side of the argument.  Mr Bloom’s bill is championed by PETA, the radical animal rights group that recently sued over the theory that the whales were “slaves” under the 13th Amendment.  If the bill passes and is signed by Gov. Moonbeam, both quite likely I believe, what’s the next target for PETA?

A likely candidate is zoo elephants.  After all, they are huge mammals, considered very intelligent and long lived.  They have, on occasion, just like Orcas, harmed and even killed their “trainers”.  And how about race horses?  Not much of a stretch there for PETA either, are they?

Animal rights lovers, be careful what you wish for.  

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger subscribermember

Seems Like:

1. Seaworld uses sealife to entertain and,  at some level, educate us.  

2. Blackfish presents a case that all mammals  are smart and should be free.   (Not sure their view on starfish)  

3.  We are all looking to see what is the cost / benefit of a Seaworld.


The VOSD is filling in those pieces of information that the docudrama Blackfish did not share.    There are two sides to this story and the truth is likley somewhere in the middle.  I'm looking to find that truth and happy the VOSD is giving us info we can not get elsewhere.  


shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

Why stop at talking about whales?  Why not talk about the water buffalo, big cats, and zebras at the San Diego Zoo?  Are we only discussing whales because a whale killed someone, or is this a legitimate debate about whether any animal should be kept in captivity for any reason?  It was a nice attempt to write something balanced, which I appreciate.  However, the discussion still seems hypocritical to me.  Others are okay with all other fish, turtles, mammals, and so forth being kept in water tanks and cages.  However, they draw the line with the "killer whales".  I'm just wondering why the line should be drawn at that particular place.  Now that we have such awesome nature shows and HD filming the argument that animals in captivity are needed as ambassadors is nonsensical.  

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

I too have been struck with how one-sided this series is so far.  I do think this article is more balanced, but a big part of the series has come off as Sea World cheer leading.  Perhaps it really doesn't matter how easy it is to pivot to a new business plan if that is the best or only way forward Sea World has.  People can speculate all they want, but we don't know how it would work out to end the shows.  Public opinion appears to be changing, and so far the only defense that anyone has offered that makes any sense is that Sea World's investors make a lot of money, and San Diego is invested in it as well.  Whatever you believe about orca captivity, it's hard to deny that it's 99% about money and 1% or less about research.

Carolyn Chase
Carolyn Chase subscriber

So you think they will go out of business with acres of prime real estate and land use right to install  more rides already approved? You think people are so small-minded that they are not interested in the rest of ocean creatures - or the rides that could be designed? And that an audio-animatronic Shamu couldn't be a hit? If shows are legislated out of existence, I bet they'll have a plan.

Gary Vineyard
Gary Vineyard subscriber

SeaWorld says the whales are treated great and that captivity is not a problem sooooooo...why not test this theory?  Open the gates to the ocean (or build a pen in open water) and see if the whales stick around in the pen or take off for open seas...let them decide.

alfredokuba
alfredokuba subscriber

 People who fall pray to the public relations campaigns of corporations like Sea World demonstrate the little or none knowledge they have about marine mammals of any animals at all. Their mentality is reduced to view animals being portrayed in a cartoon like manner, to child like minds.


Sea World's so called "bonding" with killer whales and other animals they held prisoners in their prison, is a forceful act of domination. The animals are forced to do unnatural and demeaning acts on command in exchange for food. Sea World reinforces this unnatural behavior on the animals who have no other way or choice to survive. This is nothing short of psychological and physical torture and cruelty! and not a bond. The real bond that exists between killer whales and all animals is between their families, mothers and calves, Etc. The fact is Sea World deliberately brakes and destroys the natural bonds between their families in order to control them and exploit them, tears families apart in order to impose the human will on them by a "trainer" who will coerce them into doing unnatural behaviors in exchange for food.


Animals do not perform willingly and freely because they want to do what they are doing in a captive, man made environment. Everything that they do is forced onto them by conditioning them to do so.


Everything in a captive, man made environment is unnatural, cruel and oppressive. 


No matter how Sea World twist and brands it, it is oppression and exploitation and only fools would think otherwise. 

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

I do not have a strong view on this issue, but I am troubled by the absolute assertion in this piece that removing orcas from Sea World's attractions "would" cause "devastating" harm to Sea World: "When we point out how devastating to SeaWorld the bill would be ..." 

Ironically, this assertion of Mr. Lewis links to an article with the headline, "So-Called Blackfish Bill Could Devastate SeaWorld." Note the word "could" versus "would." Mr. Lewis though is apparently clairvoyant and now "could" becomes "would." In either case, it's hyperbole. My view is that Sea World might in fact survive and thrive through various strategies and I've observed friends and family who visit Sea World do not remark on the orca shows as the signature draw. The kids go on rides, see sharks, dog shows, dolphins, etc. and seem to like them all pretty equally. Who knows really?

If someone were to objectively fact check Mr. Lewis' statement that removing orcas would cause devastating harm it would, at best, be: "Unfounded: There is insufficient evidence to back up this statement." But of course, Fact Check is only applied to others outside the VOSD world. VOSD doesn't fact check itself and certainly doesn't fact check Mr. Lewis.

Yogi Berra said, "It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future." Indeed. There is a big difference though between prediction and certitude. The former involves an implicit recognition of the possibility of being incorrect. 

Sara_K
Sara_K subscribermember

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Scott.


My critique has not been that VOSD is dedicating resources to cover various elements of SeaWorld's relevance to San Diego, but that SeaWorld execs' and affiliates' claims are unchallenged in many of the recent stories (Worst offender: How Much Shamu Means to SeaWorld," though apologist "5 Big Claims ‘Blackfish’ Makes About SeaWorld
" is right up there.)

I have encouraged Lisa, among other things, to parse out the various SW entities (including Hubbs), PR and community goodwill benefits the corporation gains from federal dollars and related nonprofit's work. There are many other approaches within her chosen framework that would provide more integrous balance.

Seth Hall's critique highlights many of my shared concerns about the collective impact of the course of the one-sided (favoring SW) narrative: http://www.tunnl.in/seaworld-worship.

I appreciate the context you add here, and hope the research is a little more rigorous and diverse in upcoming months. 

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

Scott, Thank You for this dose of reality -- EXCEPT "Naive?" SeaWorld has hired a lobbyist for dangerous and dirty energy and GMOs to kill AB 2140, the CA Orca Safety & Welfare Bill, Pete Montgomery: "His current client list includes the California CCS Coalition, which is active in global warming regulation and carbon sequestration projects. Its board is made up of Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison, the Western States Petroleum Association, Shell Oil, and Hydrogen Energy California, among others.

"He also represents NRG Energy of Carlsbad, Chevron and Archer Daniel Midland, an international food processing company based in Illinois.

"Montgomery’s job will be to convince lawmakers to reject Assembly Bill 2140, which was introduced in response the controversial documentary 'Blackfish,' which explores the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at the Orlando, Fla. park, who was pulled into the pool by the orca Tilikum and drowned.

“'There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,' Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said when he introduced the bill. 'These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.'.

"The measure is designed to: end the use of performing orcas in theme shows, ban captive breeding and prohibit the import and export of the so-called 'killer' whales."

Bring it on. We fought SoCal Edison and Sempra to keep the defective San Onofre nuclear power plant shut and won. We're fighting the Western States Petroleum Assn on fracking, and we're making big headway in public and electeds opinion. We're fighting all the fossil fuel pushers to kick our addiction, which is killing our planet. And we're fighting Frankenfood manufacturers like Archer Daniel Midland to improve the safety and health of our food supply. Mr. Montgomery is the face of what is wrong with our world. History is with US.  

Matty Azure
Matty Azure subscriber

"I am not an animal!!"

Signed,

Joseph Merrick

CCTS
CCTS subscriber

@Bill Bradshaw It is also championed by many who are not PETA supporters and who protested long before Blackfish was even thought about. If Seaworld was a rescue facility only, more people would visit it, especially for updates on how their orcas are doing in their new seapen habitats.

ResedaJohn
ResedaJohn subscriber

@Bill Bradshaw Elephants don't belong in zoos.  No animal does.  What gives us the right to imprison animals for our amusement and entertainment?  PETA is on the right track as are other organizations working to bestow animals with legal rights.

CCTS
CCTS subscriber

@shawn fox it is nonsensical, the UK hasn't had a captive cetacean since the 90's but people still fight for them so its rubbish that people need to see them in tanks. I think the emphasis is on orca in there as they have stronger family bonds than us. We bring our children up to say 25 yrs, then they have a family and home of their own, orca's stay with their mothers for life. When they were first captive people didn't know, but now they do and wild pods have been researched Seaworld needs to accept that research and do something about it, rather than just label everyone who protests them as extremists.

ResedaJohn
ResedaJohn subscriber

@shawn fox it is a legitimate debate whether any animal should be kept in captivity

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

@shawn fox there are plenty of animal rights advocates who demand zoos be vacated. And I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the difference between SeaWorld and the zoo is or if there is one.

There are two main differences from what I can tell: Orcas travel hundreds of miles a week, the confinement is extreme and therefore, unusually cruel. And, secondly, they are made to perform. Unlike zoos, which ostensibly are trying to recreate part of their habitat and just keep them alive and fulfilled. 


Finally, there's the argument about offsets. Is what these places are doing for education and conservation offsetting the sacrifice the animals are making? SeaWorld, as we've reported, will not disclose how much of its budget goes to conservation. 

But yeah, there's no doubt that these same questions are making zoo advocates uncomfortable as well. I don't think arguing "what about the zoo?" gives anyone a free pass. It's like saying, during a debate about brain injuries in football, that baseball players also get brain injuries. But we're not talking about baseball. We're talking about football.

Here, we're talking about SeaWorld. Make a case for why it's OK. I'm honestly listening.

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

@Janet Shelton I don't agree that  pointing out that City Hall is directly invested in SeaWorld profits is a defense of the company. It's a fact that those concerned about SeaWorld should consider. If they're upset about SeaWorld, they should demand the city divest.

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

@Carolyn Chase SeaWorld's entire branding and identity is built around the orcas. I don't think it will be easy to simply repurpose the park. Nor is it guaranteed they get the same visitorship. I think it would take another company, another approach entirely. 

That doesn't mean something couldn't do as good or better on that land but this debate requires us to think about just how big of a deal the orcas are to SeaWorld and we've tried to find everythign we can about what people think. 

Land itself doesn't deliver. Ask Chula Vista how easy it is to develop attractive bayfront land into something that delivers for the economy and City Hall revenue.

CCTS
CCTS subscriber

@Gary Vineyard They also say they cannot feed themselves etc. Keiko learnt how to catch fish again after 22 years of captivity and Seaworld orca's have learnt how to regurgitate bits of food to tempt the birds so they can catch them. Why would an animal with no wild or hunting instincts do that? They also have 5 wild caught orca in their tanks at the moment who will remember the ocean as Keiko did and as most of the orca are from Tilikum, Kasatka's and Katina's line I am sure they could teach them wild ways.

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

@Martha Sullivan  Fossil fuels are the reason that you have internet access.  There is no other form of energy that can even come close to producing the kind of energy that is needed to run our society (except for nuclear which you also seem to hate).  Your post here is very amusing.  Of course they hired a lobbyist to kill a bill that they don't like, as do the organizations that you support!  

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

@Jim Jones Not in 2013-14, in the wake of Blackfish and SeaWorld's arrogant dismissal of it and of millions of people around the world have woken up to the inhumanity that SeaWorld's captive orca shows represent.  Looked at SeaWorld Entertainment's stock price lately?  52 Week High /Low: $ 39.65 / $ 27.4801 

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

@Scott Lewis @Janet SheltonPlease reread my comment.  That's not what I said.  I didn't offer an extensive point by point, just a general observation that so far, the articles seem biased toward Sea World and that the primary justification for keeping orcas and having them perform is $$$.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Lewis: I would disagree with the statement that SeaWorld's entire branding an identify is build around the orcas. No question that orcas are a signature attraction, but if you look at their website you'll see that they promote all sorts of things beyond orcas. Just click on Attractions and on Animals here: http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sandiego/

CCTS
CCTS subscriber

@Scott Lewis @Carolyn ChaseIf their identity is built around those orca's why have they changed their websites so the emphasis is off the orcas. Why when challenged about anything do they push the rescue and releases they do? They are changing their business model and branding themselves. Rescues and rehabs would not be protested by anyone, why would they, that is a totally separate issue to the cetaceans they have captive. They need to move with the research same as everyone else has.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Lewis: My error! I retract the statement that, "But of course, Fact Check is only applied to others outside the VOSD world. VOSD doesn't fact check itself and certainly doesn't fact check Mr. Lewis." Quite amusing that fact check you linked. I remain critical however, of a statement like, "When we point out how devastating to SeaWorld the bill would be ..." This blends an implication of fact with opinion. 

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

@shawn fox @Martha Sullivan Shawn, it is local, state and Federal policy not to mention in other nations worldwide to substantially reduce our use of fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions.  VERY amusing.  I am not at all surprised that SeaWorld has hired an arsenal of high-paid lobbyists to kill AB 2140, but I DO think it is very telling that they hired the go-to guy for mega-utilities who have ripped off their customers for almost $2 Billion for a defective nuclear power plant that didn't produce any electricity for 17 months before they finally pulled the plug on it (SoCal Edison and Sempra viz San Onofre nuke power plant), as well as for the fossil fuel industry leaders determined to extract every last penny out of fossil fuels, even if it endangers our very existence on this planet.  Yes, VERY amusing.  

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

@Scott Lewis @Jim JonesScott, you truly disappoint me.  Jim Jones is simply parroting the SeaWorld corporate cheerleader line.  If SWE doesn't feel threatened by Blackfish, why has it hired a team of high-paid lobbyists from the nuke, fossil fuel and GMO industries to kill AB 2140?  These lobbyists KNOW how to try to flim flam the public, that's why.  But we are seeing through the smoke and mirrors.  We kept San Onofre shut despite their best attempts, and we are making real progress beating back the fossil fuel pushers and GMO Dr Frankenfoods.  We'll do it here, too.  History is with US, not these dinosaurs of the 20th Century.  Evolve or die. 

ResedaJohn
ResedaJohn subscriber

@Jim Jones @Scott Lewis @shawn fox Humans are animals, no more intrinsically worthy of freedom?  All animals are intrinsically worthy of freedom if we decide that to be the case. 

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Lewis: What you stated was that SeaWorld's entire branding and identity is built around the orcas. When I Google SeaWorld logo, that does not appear to be the case. Same when I visit their website. I appreciate that some are of the view that SeaWorld is a multifaceted aquatic them park that could survive and thrive without orcas. I appreciate that others, notably VOSD, have promoted (and you have herein asserted) that SeaWorld would be devastated by the elimination of orcas. You have every right to defend your point of view, but prognostications and hyperbole do not constitute fact. 

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

@Chris Brewster I never said it was the only attraction SeaWorld offered. I took my son there and didn't even walk by Shamu stadium. As for identity, orcas are SeaWorld's logo!

Carolyn Chase
Carolyn Chase subscriber

@CCTS @Scott Lewis @Carolyn Chase  They may have to ummmm evolve. Necessity is usually the mother of invention. As has been pointed out, many people do not attend the orca shows. As for performing - I agree with those who point out that being kept in captivity without activity is a recipe for depression for most sentient species. The zoo, I believe, calls it "enrichment." Also, many ocean critters do just fine being stationary or in a small, properly balance area. There are plenty of interesting species in the sea and potential theme rides to go along.


Over the years, I've seen many attractions come and go at theme parks - SeaWorld and others - and their logos too. They evolve to suit what people want to see. If public opinion were to truly turn against whales in captivity, they would cease to keep them. That is what the proposed legislation represents. But releasing whales bred, born and kept in captivity is problematic. Keeping them without performing is likely more cruel. 


As for their research budget, I believe they have stated how many researchers they employ - so that gives you a floor, quasi estimate/WAG. 

CCTS
CCTS subscriber

@Jim Jones @Martha SullivanWell if its not hurting them and not having waterworks isn't hurting them, when they protested so much that it would, why would not having orca in there hurt them, its all presumption on their part.

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

@Jim Jones @Martha Sullivan The very reason why SeaWorld must evolve is why the catastrophe you forecast will not happen.  Today's world has evolved.   San Diego's Mayor and City Council should be concerned about a continuing decline in visitors to SeaWorld here in San Diego if SeaWorld continues to ignore the growing movement for humane animal treatment worldwide. San Diego IS a world class tourist destination, and we need to embrace this movement to maintain this stature.


Financial success need not be predicated on the captivity of highly intelligent, socially sophisticated marine mammals in wholly unnatural conditions.


The last captive cetacean park in the United Kingdom closed in 1993. Catalonia banned the centuries-old tradition of bullfighting in Spain over two years ago. Last year, India banned captive cetaceans, joining Chile, Costa Rica and Hungary. India banned "any person/persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import [or] capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever."


As recently reported by the Voice of San Diego, Disney's two theme parks in Anaheim and Universal Studios' park in Hollywood each draw more visitors and revenue than any of SeaWorld Entertainment's parks. Captive orcas are forced to live in 1/1000th of the space in their natural habitat, forced to perform tricks on command for food with loud music blaring, exposed nightly to loud fireworks, placed in tanks with other orcas not from their natural pod creating conflict and physical harm and also isolated because of these unnatural social groupings, and bred artificially. SeaWorld Entertainment's need for genetic diversity in its stock leads it to seek out wild-caught orcas, such as Morgan, a young, weakened female orca rescued offshore the Netherlands which SeaWorld Entertainment petitioned to have transferred to its partner park, Loro Parque in the Canary Islands (Spain), where six of SeaWorld's orcas are on paid loan. The original permit to capture Morgan was predicated on her rehabilitation and return to the wild.


SeaWorld Entertainment could use the incredible digital technology available today to simulate the REAL Sea World, just as more and more worldwide corporations are using digital and other advanced technology to eliminate the need to use live animals for testing drugs and consumer products.


On the occasion of SeaWorld's 50th Anniversary founding here in San Diego, concerned San Diegans are calling upon SeaWorld Entertainment to embrace the 21st Century. It is more apparent than ever that successful businesses adapt to changes in their market, or they fail.


For more information, see: http://www.cetaceaninspiration.com/news/2014/3/6/a-bill-proposal-that-bans-killer-whale-captivity-in-california-faq

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

@Jim Jones @Martha SullivanPer the journalists at SeaWorld Entertaintment Inc's home newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel: 'Attendance dipped at SeaWorld parks during the final three months of 2013, but the Orlando-based theme-park operator said it still posted record earnings in its first year as a public company....

'Still, it was a soft quarter for the company overall. Smaller crowds at the company’s other parks helped pull chainwide attendance down 1.4 percent from a year earlier, to 4.5 million visitors.

'SeaWorld operates several regional parks that close during the winter, and the company typically operates at a loss during the first and fourth quarters. But its fourth-quarter loss of $13.5 million was 54 percent larger than its loss during the fourth quarter of 2012.

'Total revenue, however, climbed 3 percent for the quarter to $272 million, as SeaWorld raised prices for food, tickets and merchandise and as visitors bought more in its parks.'

http://www.dailyitem.com/0100_news/x1974699018/Attendance-slips-at-SeaWorld-parks-but-company-reports-record-annual-earnings