ORCAS TODAY, MONKEYS TOMORROW

Animal-rights activists have tasted blood and want more. Several years ago they brought down Ringling Brothers Circus performances featuring trained elephants as cruel and inhumane. Now they have finally gained the upper hand in their battle with SeaWorld. They finally forced the popular entertainment facility to discontinue their world-famous Shamu shows at three of their locations after years of criticizing confinement of wild life. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) even demands that SeaWorld should release the mammals that were bred and raised in captivity into the wild, a sure death penalty. What will be the next target?

Who are these people that can successfully challenge a major corporation, especially one that is a popular entertainment for the general public? PETA is a determined mixed group of environmentalists and animal-rights advocates. Basically their crusade is to not allow any wild animal to be kept in captivity. Their success on the SeaWorld censure was advanced by the distribution of the documentary film “Black Fish.”

Obviously the public’s response to this film and the persistent demands from PETA were successful in reaching public response. Attendance at San Diego’s SeaWorld dropped 17% in 2014 and a corporate loss of $84 million in the first quarter for 2015. Response to this attendance impairment finally forced the SeaWorld leadership to announce a major restructure of the marine park’s operation. Previous modifications to enlarge the tanks to provide more space for the orcas and to eliminate certain Shamu show tricks as a safety precaution had not satisfied PETA.

As the orca shows phase out new attractions will be added. The early announcements suggest they will be more like thrill rides than a marine park exhibit. The original concept for SeaWorld in Mission Bay Park in 1964 was marine life on display in a landscaped tropical environment. Subsequent corporate operators transformed the property into an amusement park. An aquarium-based submarine ride is on the drawing boards. A more ambitious thrill ride is scheduled for 2018.

Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld, went public with the announcement that the park will discontinue breeding of orcas in captivity and stop the use of orcas for entertainment purposes. The mammals will be kept on display for public viewing but without performing any tricks. Manby emphatically announced they would not set free their 51 orcas in their possession as promoted by PETA. “No orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild,” he revealed.

The company’s public announcement also pointed out that the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills. Zoos and aquariums actually help protect and breed endangered species. More than 3000 species are currently endangered and hundreds are lost every year. Some scientists predict that within a century 50% of large mammals will be extinct. That’s why Manby justified his operation by providing facilities that keep wild animals in captivity under proper care.

These concessions have not stopped PETA in its campaign to destroy SeaWorld’s economic impact for San Diego. Not only will the lucrative lease revenue based on attendance hit the city’s budget but hundreds of jobs will be lost. A recent published letter to the editor in San Diego Union-Tribune suggested that large sums of money spent by PETA on television ads condemning SeaWorld might better be spent on the care and preservation of endangered wild life.

If PETA continues this crusade, the next target would be zoos. After all, these animals are confined and exhibited for the pleasure of public viewing. Where else would a child see a live giraffe or a lion? Certainly not roaming free in Balboa Park.

At least PETA hasn’t suggested that yet, but don’t be surprised if those animal advocates want to release those caged moneys into the wild. They are relentless in their crusade. You better keep your family pet dog out of sight.

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