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SeaWorld’s Advertisements Are Full Of Lies (Video)

In effort to reinvent its image, theme park resorts to fudging facts again

The International Marine Mammal Project released a new video last week that debunks many of the lies SeaWorld tells the public and its shareholders, lies that are increasingly getting the theme park and entertainment company into hot water.

At its core, SeaWorld is a company that exploits dolphins and whales. It makes money by keeping cetaceans in barren concrete tanks, where every aspect of their lives can be controlled and manipulated. Cetaceans are forced to perform and are denied the opportunity for retirement, since the company wants to continue profiting off of their performances until the day they sicken and die. Contrary to what SeaWorld’s spokespersons say, it does not care for the well being of anything besides their bottom lines.

This is why it is so adamantly against retiring any dolphin or whale to a seaside sanctuary — it wants to continue exploiting their “assets” as long as they can. In 2015, SeaWorld launched a huge public relations and media outreach effort to paint a more humane picture of the company, or as Fast Company put it, “Make You Forget About Blackfish” referring to the documentary that continues to cause significant financial woes for the company. 

As part of this PR makeover, and in an effort to justify its continued use of captive whales and dolphins, SeaWorld has put out advertisements attacking the rescue and release of Keiko, the orca who performed in the 1993 hit movie Free Willy, calling the effort was a “failure” because Keiko died in his home waters five years after he was freed.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Keiko the orcaPhoto courtesy of Free Willy Keiko FoundationAs part of it's PR makeover, SeaWorld has put out advertisements attacking the rescue and release of Keiko, the orca who performed in the 1993 hit movie Free Willy, calling the effort was a “failure” because Keiko died in his home waters five years after he was freed. In truth, those five years in the seaside sanctuary were likely the best he could have had after being released.

The truth is, that after filming wrapped, Keiko was left in a Six Flags park in Mexico City — a facility which now faces closure thanks to recently passed legislation banning cetacean captivity in that city. While at the park, where he spent his days languishing in a shallow pool with no protection from the blazing sun,

Keiko dropped weight and developed a skin disease,

Thanks to the Free Willy Keiko Foundation, other groups, and millions of supporters around the world, Keiko was successfully transferred first to Oregon for rehabilitation in natural seawater, then to a seaside sanctuary in Iceland, his native waters from where he had been kidnapped as a baby.

Keiko thrived for more than five years in the seaside sanctuary, during which time he also swum freely in the ocean, swimming as far as Norway at one point. He encountered and communicated with wild whales. He never had to perform tricks in order to be fed; he chose how to spend his time and had the privilege of privacy — all of which is routinely denied SeaWorld’s orcas and dolphins. He died of natural causes.

In case more proof is needed that dolphins and orcas flourish when free, let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

In total, Keiko’s rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release took seven years — from his removal from Mexico City in 1996 to his death, from natural causes, in Norway in 2003. During this same time, a whopping 77 cetaceans died at SeaWorld alone, including eight captive orcas. 

The numbers become even grimmer when international facilities are taken into account. According to data collected by Cetabase, the number of cetacean fatalities — orcas, belugas & dolphins — in captive facilities across the world during this same period was a reported 325 deaths. (This figure excludes many countries, such as Japan, where facilities are not required to report cetacean deaths, meaning that the total death rate is likely much higher).

Keiko also lived to be one of the oldest male orcas in captivity at the time of his release. Statistically speaking, if he’d stayed in a SeaWorld tank, he would have died years earlier, without ever having the opportunity to be immersed in his ocean home or communicate with his long lost kin.

SeaWorld claims that retiring orcas to seaside sanctuaries would be “irresponsible”. But what is actually irresponsible is forcing dolphins and whales to perform in barren concrete tanks. In its more than six decades of operation, SeaWorld hasn’t retired a single dolphin or whale, despite abundant examples of the positive benefits of doing so.

SeaWorld’s lies are increasingly catching up with them. A class-action lawsuit is currently underway in which the plaintiffs (park visitors) claim SeaWorld lied to them about the health and welfare of captive orcas and charge that the company is engaging in deceptive advertising.  Similarly, the company was recently sued by investors for failing to disclose the impact of the documentary film Blackfish on their attendance numbers and stock price. Now, the US Justice Department has stepped in on the issue of misleading shareholders, and SeaWorld leadership is facing potential criminal charges.

SeaWorld should realize that there is no future in cetacean captivity and should continue their pivot towards rides and entertainment that doesn’t exploit dolphins, whales, or any other living being.

Take Action:  Sign the petition to stop SeaWorld from continuing to deceive the public. 

 

Laura Bridgeman
Laura Bridgeman is director of Sonar, an organization that advocates for dolphin and whale personhood, and Campaign & Communications Specialist at Earth Island's International Marine Mammal Project.

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