A Defining Moment: SeaWorld to End Breeding of Orcas
SeaWorld’s initial response to the negative press that was sent their way as a result of the 2013 documentary Blackfish was to launch a multi-million marketing campaign aimed at improving their tarnished image. Now, in a move considered to be a “defining moment” by the director of Blackfish, SeaWorld has announced an end to the breeding of orcas, which means the current whales of the park will be the last to ever be showcased at their parks.
The announcement comes after a newly formed partnership with SeaWorld and The Humane Society, and according to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society:
“These two organizations have been long-time adversaries, but we’re excited now to see the company transforming its operations for the better on animal welfare. Today’s announcement signals that the era of captive display of orcas will end and that SeaWorld will redouble its work around rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals in crisis and partner with us to tackle global threats to marine creatures.”
Out of the 30 whales currently held in captivity, 23 were actually born as a result of SeaWorld’s breeding program. The president and CEO of SeaWorld, Joel Manby, stated that with the help of The Humane Society, he hopes to “build an army of advocates to protect animals and wild places.”
Perhaps the most significant reaction to this announcement does come form Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish, who stated:
“This is a defining moment. The fact that SeaWorld is doing away with orca breeding marks truly meaningful change.”
The announcement includes SeaWorld’s newfound commitment to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals, their participation in ending the commercial slaughter of marine life, as well as making significant changes to the current food policies in their restaurants.
While some animal rights groups, including PETA, have also demanded that the orcas currently kept in SeaWorld’s 12 parks be released, SeaWorld has refused, stating the orcas will spend the rest of their lives in the parks.
According to BBC, SeaWorld’s shares rose 6% the morning after the announcement. Seems this was a much better strategy than their initial rebranding attempt.