Over the past few years the famous name of SeaWorld has gone from generating pleasant associations of family vacations and aquatic discovery to falling under a heavy shadow of scandal and repeated accusations of animal mistreatment.
Activists insist that SeaWorld has routinely mistreated the Whales and Dolphins held captive at the park for the entertainment and education of human sightseers. The controversy and revealing of the questionable animal treatment practices were brought to a head with the release of “Blackfish”, a documentary created to expose the inhumane treatment of the animals in SeaWorld.
This week Sea World announced that in recent years they have suffered an 84% decrease in sales due to what they refer to as “continued brand challenges” which have customers leery of enjoying park productions. It has also been reported that since the release of “Blackfish” the company has seen a loss of more than half its market value, forcing the company to let go of many lead executives within the company.
Last Thursday numbers were released to the public revealing that the income of SeaWorld has fallen from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015 with a drop in attendance by more than 100,000 tickets.
Joel Manby, SeaWorld CEO gave the following statement:
“We realize we have much work ahead of us to recover more of our attendance base, increase revenue and improve our performance as returning to historical performance levels will take time and investment. On the reputation side, early feedback on our campaign has been positive, however, we recognize that fully resolving our brand challenges in California will require sustained focus and commitment to correct misinformation. We will continue to fight with the facts, because the facts are on our side.”
Despite the intense onslaught of criticism and accusation by activists and the public at large, SeaWorld stands by their animal treatment and practices insisting that their park locations act more as ‘veterinary clinics’ than zoos. This, they say, is because they take in and nurse un-well animals back to heal and then keep said animals at the park because those animals are not candidates for being released back into the wild to survive on their own. Activists, however, refute these claims.
Jared Goodman, director of animal law for PETA told the Guardian that “SeaWorld is in the midst of a spying scandal, animals are dying in its tanks, and tens of thousands of people have opposed its bid to build a new orca prison, so it should come as no surprise that SeaWorld’s quarterly earnings have plummeted yet again in the second quarter. Families just don’t want to buy tickets to see orcas going insane inside tiny tanks, and SeaWorld’s profits, like the orcas, won’t recover until the abusement park empties its tanks and builds coastal sanctuaries.”
The continued media attention on SeaWorld as it crashes and burns is perfectly in tune with the planet-wide reassessment of how animals are being treated and how we, as a human species, are choosing to relate to animals of various species on a wider scale. Take into account the recent uproar over Cecil the Lion, the recent laws passed in various countries around the world granting certain animal species rights akin to those given to human beings, and even state legislature being passed throughout the US to grant greater protection and rights to domesticated animals. This is certainly a symptom of the greater phase of planetary conscious evolution as more and more of us as humans choose to look at our brothers and sister in the animal kingdom and acknowledge their non-human, yet autonomous, ‘personhood’ unique to each species.
In truth, the disgust and upset at the mistreatment of animals at SeaWorld should perhaps not be falling entirely on SeaWorld as an organization but could perhaps invite us as a ‘civilized’ culture to reassess why we find certain things entertaining, like looking at a wild animal that belongs in the expanse of the ocean cramped inside an indoor pool being thrown dead fish and prodded by humans. Perhaps, if blame must be dealt, we all carry a bit of that blame as bystanders or as unconscious partakers of such unnatural entertainment.