As part of a continued effort to address public concerns over its treatment of captive dolphins and whales, SeaWorld Entertainment has launched a new ad campaign highlighting its 50-year commitment to continuous evolution, new killer whale habitats and answer criticism from activists.
Pressure from animal activist groups such as PETA, which issued more than 110 press releases about SeaWorld in the last two years, and the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which exposed how killer whales are kept and treated in captivity, has resulted in a maelstrom of bad press and public outcry against the park.
"There's been a lot of misinformation and even lies spread about SeaWorld, and we recognize that it has caused some people to have questions about the welfare of killer whales in human care," David D'Alessandro, Chairman and Interim CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a press statement on Monday. "This long-term campaign will address those questions head on. We want to provide the facts, so people can make up their own minds on this important issue."
In an effort to increase transparency, SeaWorld launched a “You Ask. We Answer.” website as well as answering the public's questions via the @SeaWorld handle on Twitter. The move mirrors McDonald’s "Our food. Your questions." campaign, during which the fast food giant had two-way conversations with consumers about food ingredients and other concerns, such as allegations of pink slime.
YouTube videos also show SeaWorld’s marine mammals being cared for by park veterinarians:
SeaWorld maintains that orcas were held captive because of aggressive behavior, noting that trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by one in 2010. However, John Hargrove, who spent 14 years as an orca trainer and appeared in Blackfish, argues that captivity causes their aggression, not instinct.
"As I became higher-ranked” at SeaWorld, Hargrove recently told NPR, “I saw the devastating effects of captivity on these whales and it just really became a moral and ethical issue.”
So far, SeaWorld has spent $10 million in rehabilitation efforts, announcing it would build larger enclosures for its orcas and contribute to ongoing killer whale research while creating a partnership focused on ocean health. Will this, and its new attempts at transparency, be enough to satisfy its critics?