By Kurt Wolff
In recent weeks, artists such as Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Joan Jett and Heart have cancelled upcoming concerts at SeaWorld in response to criticisms regarding the treatment of marine mammals at the park.
Now SeaWorld has responded, and has done so through a series of high-profile ads (see an example) placed in newspapers around the country including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Orlando Sentinel, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Antonio Express-News (SeaWorld has parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio).
Dubbed as an “Open Letter from SeaWorld’s Animal Advocates,” the statement (which is also available to read online) notes that:
The men and women of SeaWorld are true animal advocates. We are the 1,500 scientists, researchers, veterinarians, trainers, marine biologists, aquarists, aviculturists, educators and conservationists who have dedicated our lives to the animals in our care as well as those in the wild that are injured, ill or orphaned.
The statement also asserts that “SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild”; that they “do not separate killer whale moms and calves”; and that “the killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild.”
Many of the criticisms against the park and its treatment of animals stem from the recently released documentary Blackfish. The film follows the life in captivity of an orca (a.k.a. ‘killer whale’) named Tilikum that attacked and killed his trainer (Dawn Brancheau) and two others in three separate instances. The film suggests that a life in captivity caused the whale’s aggression.
According to an interview published Friday (Dec. 20) in the Orlando Sentinel, SeaWorld President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison explained that the company decided to respond based on the publicity surrounding the artist cancellations. “That ended up getting more coverage and became a story of its own,” he said.
Of the ten acts originally scheduled for SeaWorld’s “Bands, Brew & BBQ” series in early 2014, eight have cancelled (petitions are currently circulating urging the remaining two artists, Justin Moore and Scotty McCreery, to also cancel).Currently the web page for the event asks fans to “stay tuned for the 2014 concert lineup.”