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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld on Friday posted ads in a handful of newspapers around the nation in response to a critical documentary that inspired eight musical acts to cancel performances at the company’s Orlando marine park.
SeaWorld posted the ad in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Orlando Sentinel, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Antonio Express-News. SeaWorld has parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.
Both the ad and open letter on its website describe SeaWorld as an advocate for animals and detail efforts to rescue and care for marine animals.
“Inaccurate reports recently have generated questions about SeaWorld and the animals in our care,” the full-page ad said. “The truth is in our parks and people, and it’s time to set the record straight.”
On Friday, SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said in an email: “We did the ads because there was a great deal of dishonesty and misinformation in the online discussion of SeaWorld over the last several weeks, and we felt an open letter was the best way to provide the truth about SeaWorld.”
Eight out of 10 originally scheduled musical acts have pulled out of SeaWorld Orlando’s Bands, Brew and BBQ concert series in February, citing the documentary Blackfish. Among the performers who have pulled out are Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, 38 Special, Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson and Heart. Many of the performers canceled after fans started a campaign petition on the advocacy website Change.org. SeaWorld says it has booked replacements but won’t release names until all the new acts are confirmed.
The cancellations have had no effect on park attendance, Jacobs said in his email.
The documentary Blackfish explores what may have caused a 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum to kill veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Tilikum pulled her into a pool. The orca also was involved in two other deaths. The documentary argues that killer whales, when in captivity, become more aggressive to humans and each other.
The newspaper ad said SeaWorld hasn’t taken a wild killer whale into captivity for 35 years due to its successful breeding program. It also said that SeaWorld doesn’t separate killer whale mothers and calves and that the company has invested $70 million over the past three years in its parks’ killer whale habitats.
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