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For years, SeaWorld has been insulated from public scrutiny within its pretty little marine mammal captivity operation. To the unsuspecting eye, SeaWorld’s parks look enticing – within their grounds you can “meet” beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, manatees, California sea lions, penguins, and other stunning wild animals. Yet, SeaWorld’s history and its treatment of its animal performers stand on shaky ground.
They call themselves “animal advocates” yet keep these same animals captive for the sake of entertainment. Then, they call this “entertainment” education because somehow having orcas locked up in small, barren tanks “benefits” those living free in the wild. (Seems like a long shot to us…)
With all the new, scathing information out about SeaWorld’s shady captivity operation, the entertainment giant seems to be sinking, no longer able to bear the weight of the public’s new-found scorn.
Let’s take a look at some telling signs that show SeaWorld may in fact be on the way out.
1. Protests Erupt (Online and Offline)
Protests against marine animal captivity are not new; however, never has the world witnessed such ferocity against the captivity industry as we have with the more recent protests standing up to SeaWorld. Twitter has lit up with anti-SeaWorld hashtags like #downwithSeaWorld and #emptythetanks and anti-SeaWorld articles are being widely shared like never before.
What’s more, younger generations – SeaWorld’s main targets — have begun to get involved with the anti-captivity movement like 12-year-old Rose McCoy who protested against SeaWorld at the 2013 Rose Bowl and five-year-old Cash who made a video, with the help of his parents, asking the world to boycott SeaWorld with him.
2. Music Artists Cancel Performances
With the encouragement of the public, a number of music artists cancelled their shows to SeaWorld’s “Bands, Blues & BBQ” annual event in 2013. Eight of 10 artists scheduled to perform dropped out one after the other, including Martina McBride, 38 Special, Willie Nelson, Barenaked Ladies, Trisha Yearwood, Cheap Trick, Heart, and REO Speedwagon. These pull-outs spelled bad publicity for SeaWorld and proved early on that the fight against captivity is here to stay and is growing.
3. Stocks Sold
SeaWorld has also felt the pain over this past year as it watched a number of its stocks get sold. One of SeaWorld’s major shareholders, Delaware L.P. sold 18,000,000 shares of their SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. stock and Blackstone Holdings, another key shareholder, sold an additional 19,500,000 shares. Ouch!
4. SeaWorld Goes on the Defensive
With all the bad press it has been getting, SeaWorld decided it would be good to fight back – something all of us should have expected (they are a HUGE business, after all). Yet, SeaWorld’s “defense” seems to be an indicator of its failings rather than an effort to address the real issues at hand.
First, SeaWorld started out with open letters against “Blackfish,” along with a full-page newspaper ad. Then the company moved into other terrain by carrying out a Twitter ad campaign in addition to a short video series featuring a current and former SeaWorld trainer.
Yet even with all this concentrated effort to show that it cares about its captive animals and is a “good” organization, the company refused to engage in any sort of public dialogue (until very recently) about marine captivity issues. Instead, SeaWorld started throwing around the idea that everyone against them is automatically an “animal rights extremist” (because if you care about keeping animals out of captive situations you are somehow “extreme,” yet keeping wild animals confined to small areas for entertainment is somehow not…yep, sounds about right…)
Instead of name-calling and attacking a documentary that they were invited to participate in, perhaps SeaWorld should consider putting up a real defense that is grounded in truth, not falsehoods.
5. Park Attendance Plummets
While SeaWorld refuses to attribute its diminishing popularity to the “Blackfish Effect” or even the fact that people are increasingly against marine animal captivity, the fact remains that its attendance – and revenues – are dropping.
According to the Los Angeles Times, from January 2014 to March 31, 2014, SeaWorld attendance numbers dropped “to about 3.05 million visitors from 3.5 million in the same period in 2013.” That’s about a 13 percent drop in overall attendance.
More recently, SeaWorld reported that its revenue has dropped by 11 percent during the company’s first quarter earnings to $212.3 million, with $215.1 million as the initially expected amount.
All businesses have their ebbs and flows in attendance and revenue, yet SeaWorld’s sudden drops paints an entirely different picture: people are getting fed up with their captivity operations and many are simply not buying tickets anymore. If this trend continues, SeaWorld may be hurting for a long time to come.
Image source: Rojer/Flickr