On February 1, SeaWorld pledged to phase out shows that force trainers to ride on dolphins’ faces and backs. SeaWorld’s pledge comes after a campaign organized by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which included a veterinary report that revealed dolphins suffered severe injuries at all three SeaWorld locations in San Diego, San Antonio, and Orlando—several local ads against the cruel practices at the marine park—and support from actor Alec Baldwin, who, during a conference call with SeaWorld executives asked: “When will SeaWorld stop allowing trainers to use dolphins as surfboards, standing on their faces and backs, to perform circus-style shows?” PETA is also a shareholder in SeaWorld and filed a shareholder proposal in December to end these practices. SeaWorld responded to the proposal, stating that it no longer features shows with trainers riding on dolphins’ backs and plans to end the practice of them riding on the animals’ faces at its San Diego park (the only location where SeaWorld claims that type of performance is still held) in the coming months. “Stopping trainers from treating dolphins like surfboards means less abuse at SeaWorld, but orcas and other dolphins continue to suffer in tiny concrete tanks,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said. Backlash from 2013 documentary Blackfish—which resulted in deep losses in profits and attendance—pushed SeaWorld to cease breeding orcas in captivity in 2016 and to cancel its orca performances in 2018. “The company seems intent on being dragged, kicking and screaming, into ultimately releasing these animals to seaside sanctuaries,” Reiman said. “PETA is calling on it to put a plan in place now.”
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