For those of you who aren’t familiar with the glowing image of a very confused human-being that is SeaWorld’s former CEO, Jim Atchison … let us enlighten you. Under Atchison’s blissfully ignorant watch, numerous “incidents” involving trainers and orcas have occurred at the park, including the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau. SeaWorld’s stock has dropped a startling 50 percent during Atchison’s time as CEO – mostly because of the growing impact of Blackfish. Rather than making changes in the park to align with the demands of the public (such as ending the captive breeding program), Atchison announced in an interview with Business Insider than he was planning to expand the corporation’s reach into international markets where they could continue to abuse animals scot-free!

While this announcement of expansion prospects surely elicited an overwhelming cringe from people across the world, SeaWorld just announced that Atchison’s days with the corporation are over! Effective January 15th, Atchison will be replaced by David D’Alessandro, the company’s chairman.

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The passing of the torch to a new CEO comes as a beacon of hope for animals activists everywhere, but it is not yet a guarantee that real change for the animals imprisoned in SeaWorld will happen in 2015. Atchison was shockingly clueless (or maybe just solely concerned with the profit and nothing else), but D’Alessandro won’t be any better unless he accepts the overpowering fact that people do not want to see captive animals suffer for entertainment anymore.

We have seen what really goes on behind the closed doors at SeaWorld and have come to understand the dynamic emotional and cognitive abilities of the animals that are kept at the park as money-making props. Once you know the truth, it’s impossible to go back to SeaWorld and think that what we’re doing to animals is okay.

Under Atchison, SeaWorld has seen record loses, but if they want to stay in business while D’Alessandro serves as CEO they need to reimagine their entire business model. Starting with an end to their captive breeding program, SeaWorld needs to start fixing the wrongs they have done to their animals. Those who were born into captivity do not have a good shot at surviving in the wild, but they can at least be given the dignity of getting to live out the rest of their lives in a sea pen with other animals who they can peaceably interact with. Rather than touting “conservation” as their primary initiative, SeaWorld should expand their efforts to conserve the natural habitats of marine animals to ensure that they have a future. They might even consider ramping up rescue and release efforts to aid animals in need – but stop forcing those that are “too valuable” to release to perform in shameful spectacles.

We can’t say we are sorry to see Atchison go, but the fight to save the animals held hostage in SeaWorld continues. Until the corporation stops viewing animals as vital assets necessary to make profit, their actions will continue to cause harm to animals.

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Here’s hoping for real positive change in 2015!

Image source: Media.Biz.us