First, SeaWorld wimped out of a public debate challenge initiated by the documentary teams from “Blackfish” and “The Cove,” and now, the marine park giant seems to have made a strategic move to avoid discussion about opening coastal sanctuaries for its orcas altogether.
A big ole face palm might just be in order.
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “SeaWorld has pulled a procedural maneuver to exclude from its proxy materials a shareholder resolution from PETA asking the amusement park to take steps toward developing coastal sanctuaries where the orcas can be rehabilitated and retired and the public can have the opportunity to observe them in a natural environment.”
Okay – now that’s a lot of information. Let’s back track for just a moment, shall we? In fact, let’s start on April 19, 2013 when SeaWorld made its first public stock offerings of 20 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange.
On this very day, PETA decided to purchase 80 shares of SeaWorld’s newly opened stock, totaling $2,000 – the minimum amount needed to submit shareholder resolutions and attend and speak at annual meetings.
PETA’s aim? To be a voice for the company’s orcas.
“PETA’s goal is to stop SeaWorld from imposing a life of misery, confinement, and cruelty on orcas and dolphins,” said PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr in a press release following the initial public offering. “Depriving these highly intelligent social animals of all that’s natural to them causes them to chew on metal underwater gates and concrete, breaking their teeth out of sheer frustration and aggression.”
There are many people who might not be big fans of PETA, however, this is a rather admirable goal that perhaps even non-supporters can get behind, because who could ever be in favor of the continued confinement of orcas strictly for entertainment purposes?
Oh, that’s right – SeaWorld.
Let’s speed up to what happened earlier this week. Anticipating SeaWorld’s first annual shareholders meeting, PETA submitted a proposal asking the marine park to consider developing coastal sanctuaries for its orcas who are long overdue for freedom.
Yet, SeaWorld – perhaps to no surprise – has chosen to ignore this request and intends to block PETA’s proposal by filing a “proxy statement,” which, as the Orlando Sentinel points out, is a document “that must be mailed to shareholders before its yearly meeting and that must include any proposals to be voted on April 17.”
Note the date — April 17 — just two days before SeaWorld’s public offering anniversary.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Federal rules require shareholders to have held stock in a company for at least a year before they can submit recommendations for a vote.”
Piecing the puzzle together, this means that SeaWorld can technically circumvent PETA’s request by filing the proxy statement two days before a full year is over, nullifying the proposal altogether based on the federal rules.
What’s more, SeaWorld has apparently asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to not take legal action against them if it does indeed leave out PETA’s proposal from proxy documents.
Now that seems pretty shady, right?
Yet, even if SeaWorld is acting with the law on its side, it shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief yet – PETA will continue to own 80 shares of stock and once this year is over, the organization can again file a proposal recommending the creation of orca sanctuaries.
What’s more, public outrage against SeaWorld has yet to simmer down, and we doubt it will ever truly quiet because once the truth about marine animal captivity is exposed, you just can’t undo it.
Sorry, SeaWorld, but us animal lovers are all in this for the long haul — your tricks can’t keep us at bay for long, and as you continue building up a defense, you’re only showing the world one thing: that you think it’s perfectly okay to continue inhibiting the natural behaviors of orcas and other highly intelligent marine animals — even after years of relentless service — by confining them to small pools for their entire lives just to turn a profit.
Image source: Scott Akerman / Flickr