You know your company is in trouble when everyone starts laughing at you. That’s what’s happening to SeaWorld now that the activists have been joined by the hacktivists. And for SeaWorld it’s no joke.
The latest prank involved hacking into one of SeaWorld’s Facebook pages, where on Monday the marine circus was apparently describing itself as a “Prison & Correctional Facility.”
As soon as SeaWorld corrected the description, it got hit again with a new one, in which it describes itself as a “Pet Cemetery.”
This latest round of jokes began a week earlier, when drivers on the Interstate 5 near Mission Bay were greeted with this highway sign:
Fumbling for a response, SeaWorld’s PR department couldn’t come up with anything better than:
“This act of vandalism demonstrates that, once again, these extremists are more concerned with publicity stunts than actually helping animals.”
Yesterday, things got even worse when a veterinarian at the Loro Parque zoo and sea circus in the Canary Islands mistook an employee in a gorilla suit for a real gorilla, and shot him with a tranquilizer dart. (Loro Parque has a close relationship with SeaWorld that includes having orcas on loan.)
While you probably can’t help getting a chuckle out of the absurdity of this, it was quite serious for the poor guy in the suit, who weighs a lot less than a 400-pound gorilla. He suffered an allergic reaction and had to be rushed to hospital. And the incident is now being investigated by the police.
On the bright side, at least this particular Loro Parque employee is still alive. Things didn’t go so well for the killer whale trainer who was killed by Keto, a 14-year-old orca, at Loro Parque, just a couple of months before Tilikum killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010 at SeaWorld Orlando. And two years before that, another trainer at Loro Parque was attacked by an orca who broke her arm, injured her lung, and dragged her down to the bottom of the pool. (She was rescued and survived.)
Back in San Diego, airport officials have been forced to agree to displaying an ad by PETA featuring actress Kathy Najimy of the HBO show Veep saying:
“If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld.”
Meanwhile, SeaWorld’s business partners are fleeing in droves. Most recently:
- STA Travel, which organizes travel opportunities for 2.5 million students and young people each year all over the world, announced that visits to SeaWorld are “not available for sale in our reservation systems as of 22 May.”
- Taco Bell has also dropped SeaWorld as a partner.
- And Virgin Airlines billionaire Richard Branson has summoned SeaWorld officials to a “whale summit” Miami to respond to charges of abuse and neglect from scientist-advocates.
Sure, SeaWorld is still a big, wealthy company, and certainly not close to shutting down in the United States. But when you start becoming a laughing stock, you know the writing is on the wall.
So it’s probably not coincidental that the company has made a tentative deal to open a new marine circus in the oil-rich country of Qatar, where money is flowing and animal protection concerns are minimal.