SeaWorld San Diego is changing its killer whale shows. During a November press conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said Seaworld will replace its current Californian Shamu Show with “an all new orca experience focused on the natural environment [of the whales].”
Manby said the decision is a direct response to SeaWorld customers, who have increasingly expressed criticism against theatrical performances. According to municipal figures released by the city of San Diego, visitor numbers to SeaWorld dropped 17% last year to 3.8 million, influenced by factors including documentaries like “Blackfish” and campaigns by activists portraying Seaworld as a place where animals are tortured and manipulated for profit.
SeaWorld says the new programs will deliver “a conservation message inspiring people to act.”
Jiyoon Rho, a student at Rosemont Middle School who visited SeaWorld last year, told JSR, “SeaWorld made a wonderful decision because their shows were cruel and manipulative. The orcas are being forced to be entertainment for people like us, which they are unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to.”
Rho continued, “Orcas are snatched… and put into a smaller pool that is unlike the diverse ocean. No animal should be put through this.”
Sam Jung, a student who lives near San Diego, told JSR, “If they go back on their word [about the new shows], people will start to lose faith in SeaWorld. Also, nature conservative programs will actually benefit SeaWorld; there will be no one protesting something that will help the environment.”
However, the current theatrical performances will continue at other SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and Orlando. And, as Dan McSwain wrote in the San Diego Union Tribune, the animals will still be made to entertain visitors during the conservation shows.
The change is “far from a major victory for animal rights activists,” McSwain wrote. “They want SeaWorld to set [its whales] free, or at least let [them] retire to big pens in the ocean.”