SeaWorld Entertainment launched a $10 million advocacy campaign this week to draw people back to its parks after a two-year slide in attendance. The campaign aims to highlight leadership in whale care and counter misinformation.
SeaWorld came under attack after Tilikum, the SeaWorld Orlando trained killer whale, killed a female trainer in 2010 during a live show by dragging her underwater by her ponytail.
For years, animal activists had criticized the park for alleged mistreatment of the animals in captivity. Then, in 2013 the documentary, Blackfish, was released. The film covered shocking details of the Orlando trainer’s death, and detailed the deaths of others caused by the Orcas in the parks. Distressing footage showed trainers violently dragged underwater and sought to show that training the whales was an inherently dangerous job.
The campaign takes on a number of challenges, including “setting the record straight on false accusations by activists who oppose whales and other animals in zoological settings,” SeaWorld Entertainment said.
“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,” said Chairman and Interim CEO David D’Alessandro, SeaWorld Entertainment said in a statement. “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.”
Print ads will feature SeaWorld veterinarians, researchers and other members of the company’s team of 1,500 animal care experts. They will explain how they care for the killer whales and it’s $10 million commitment in matching funds to study endangered killer whales in the wild.
Online videos show park employees answering, what SeaWorld says, are some of the most common questions visitors have and a behind-the-scenes look at animal care in the park.
SeaWorld specifically plans to target PETA in its campaign, saying PETA released more than 110 press releases about SeaWorld over the past two years that are “filled with inaccuracies” about the company’s animal care. One SeaWorld ad reads: “You might have heard attacks from PETA saying our killer whales live only a fraction as long as whales in the wild. They say, ‘In captivity, orcas’ average life span plummets to just nine years.’ There’s no other way to say it…PETA is not giving you the facts.”
On it’s new SeaWorldCares.com website tied to the campaign, visitors are encouraged to join the team to share the message that SeaWorld loves animals.