PETA discourages visits to SeaWorld in San Diego airport ad

Where would you display an ad if you wanted to send a message to tourists? Maybe a place with thousands of people passing through, a place where they might have some time to look around. How about the terminal baggage claim at the airport? As arriving passengers at Lindbergh Field grab their bags, some might notice an ad – a new full-color advertisement, featuring the smiling face of actress and San Diego native Kathy Najimy, and a right to the point message: don’t go to SeaWorld.

“We hope that tourists arriving to baggage claim will see this ad and think twice before going to SeaWorld,” said PETA assistant campaign director Lindsay Rajt.

The animal rights group known as PETA paid for the ad to run for one month. The group has been a vocal critic of SeaWorld and its live orca shows; their claims that the killer whales are mistreated and suffer in captivity were echoed in the controversial documentary film Blackfish.

“Orcas out in the wild will swim up to 100 miles per day in the open ocean, in complex, tightly-knit social groups. But at SeaWorld, they have nothing to do but swim endless circles in barren cement tanks, full of chemically-treated water.”

But the airport authority and the airport’s advertising vendor did not want to run the ad at all. PETA, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in March; the suit was settled out of court this week, allowing PETA to buy the ad space at a cost of $17,500. The ACLU says the decision is a victory for free speech. From a legal perspective, it’s protected by the Constitution.

“The director of the San Diego ACLU said ‘nothing is more fundamental to the 1st Amendment than its principle that its government may not silence speech because of its viewpoint,'” stated attorney at law Jonathon Brenner. 

The head of San Diego’s Tourism Authority believes PETA’s ad, and the claims in the film Blackfish, are false and misleading – while the real harm may come from the impact of this ad on those who make their living through tourism.

“It will do harm and damage to the tourism economy,” said Joe Terzi of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “We have 165,000 people that work in the tourism economy every year. And this could potentially impact people’s livelihoods. It’s painting a bad picture at a time when people are looking to come to San Diego to enjoy all the great attractions we have.”

A statement from SeaWorld  which stated “PETA is an extremist organization and this ad demonstrates that, once again, they are more interested in publicity stunts than helping animals. The truth is that our animals at SeaWorld are healthy and happy.”

SeaWorld adds that if people want to know the truth about the animals in its care, they can go to their website. PETA, meantime, is supporting proposed legislation in Sacramento that would outlaw live orca shows and breeding of the killer whales in captivity.

Categories: KUSI