Animal rights activists have finally convinced Southwest Airlines to cut their ties with SeaWorld, ending their 25-year partnership. Their current contract will not be renewed after it expires at the end of the year. The three planes that had SeaWorld’s captive animals painted on them will be painted over, though Southwest’s vacation packages that include trips to the marine park will continue.

SeaWorld officials claim the decision was mutual, as they plan to focus their efforts on Asian and Latin American markets.

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Southwest has long been under pressure to cut ties with SeaWorld, and that pressure has increased all the more over the past year as information about the park’s dark side has become common knowledge. The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” investigated the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the hands of killer whale Tilikum, and in response, SeaWorld stock plummeted and celebrities cancelled their performances at the park.

SeaWorld still claims to have their animals” best interests “at heart, but their house of cards really came toppling down last April, when Buzzfeed exposed documents proving that staff gives orcas psychoactive drugs. It’s clear that orcas wouldn’t need these Valium-like drugs if they weren’t stressed by conditions caused by being held in an unnatural captive state. It is this stress and frustration that led to the death of Brancheau and the lesser-known killing of trainer Alex Martinez only eight weeks earlier.

It seemed that Southwest would never respond to activists’ pleas. Advertising professional and former trainer’s sister Kimberly Ventre wrote them a heartfelt “break up” letter last May, but the airline seemed unreceptive to her call for discourse. Now, activists are popping open bottles of champagne to celebrate Southwest’s change of heart.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said, “The second I heard the good news, I knew that I’d be booking my next trip on Southwest.”

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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