SeaWorld has long been considering the use of fast-rising floors in its show pools to help alleviate safety concerns related to waterwork. Perhaps they are finally ready to proceed with the Florida installation:
“One Ocean,” SeaWorld Orlando‘s iconic killer-whale show, will be taking a break in early 2014.
The theme park will be doing routine maintenance on the main performing pool at Shamu Stadium, a SeaWorld official says. The work will begin in early January. “One Ocean” is currently on the park schedule posted on its website through Jan. 5.
The Dine With Shamu experience will also be suspended for the first part of next year.
During the closures, SeaWorld Orlando will offer “Shamu Up Close,” which will include above-water and underwater interactions and a look at training techniques. It will be held in the Dine With Shamu space and accommodate hundreds of guests at a time, a spokeswoman says.
“One Ocean” and Dine With Shamu will return sometime in the spring, SeaWorld says.
Shutting down the cash-gushing Shamu show for a period of months is not “routine maintenance.” I have no knowledge that a fast-rising floor is on its way (previous on SeaWorld’s fast-rising floor here). But if I was a betting man….
[Also worth noting: this will be a very interesting experiment in how important the Shamu show is to SeaWorld's gate revenue].
We may talk about animal rights, but animals in fact have no legal rights. The NonHuman Rights Project is determined to change that, and win basic “personhood” rights for nonhuman animals, and has now filed its first lawsuit, on behalf of a chimpanzee named Tommy. Similar lawsuits will follow this week:
This morning at 10.00 E.T., the Nonhuman Rights Project filed suit in Fulton County Court in the state of New York on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee, who is being held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot in Gloversville.
This is the first of three suits we are filing this week. The second will be filed on Tuesday in Niagara Falls on behalf of Kiko, a chimpanzee who is deaf and living in a private home. And the third will be filed on Thursday on behalf of Hercules and Leo, who are owned by a research center and are being used in locomotion experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island.
The lawsuits ask the judge to grant the chimpanzees the right to bodily liberty and to order that they be moved to a sanctuary that’s part of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), where they can live out their days with others of their kind in an environment as close to the wild as is possible in North America.
Establishing some semblance of legal rights for animals is the new frontier for “animal rights,” and potentially the most powerful strategy possible to change the way in which humans relate to animals. Much more on the lawsuits being launched this week here.
Sorry. Not that it’s a surprise, but Tili isn’t going anywhere.
When Icelandic media started reporting a few days ago that a permit request to return Tilikum to Icelandic waters had been filed with the Fisheries Ministry, it was a puzzler. There is just about zero chance that SeaWorld would ever release Tilikum (or any other killer whale). Yet, the Ministry Of Fisheries seemed to be confirming that at least someone had filed a permit request.
Icelandic media kept churning out stories, with at least one yielding an interesting anecdote about the young Tilikum in captivity. And I kept reading along, until I finally saw a name associated with the permit in this story (via tortured Google translation):
In the register of the Ministry stated that the application was received in August. Appointment of qualit inc., From Tracy ELPoured and copy center Sea World. Requested the Ministry to permit that Tilikum will be transferred to his home after decades stay as gripping performances. “It is not a position has been taken to the communication. But, here might be a new whale-tale coming up, “said an employee of the Ministry. “They want to get rid of him. But, this seems to be financially. “
So a new permit was filed in August. And seemed to come from a person called Tracy EL Poured, of Qualit Inc. The name Tracy Poured sounded very familiar and a quick search of my e-mail revealed she had been in contact with me in August (according to her e-mail signature she is CEO of Qualia Inc.), to express her support, and belief that the world is changing for the better. We also connected on LinkedIn (that’s her profile picture above), so she could share with me her own lengthy analysis of Tilikum and how his life had affected him.
I e-mailed Tracy yesterday to ask her about the Tilikum permit application, and she did not want to respond directly to the question of whether she had filed it (though she did make clear she did not in any way speak for SeaWorld). After some back and forth, here is what she said:
I appreciate your inquiry and desire for clear answers, Tim. I answer what is mine to answer. Some things are not mine to answer.
I pointed out the 1992 application* in response to your statement “SeaWorld would never release Tilikum”.
I’m involved in conversations with Iceland, SeaWorld, scientists and many more involved in the orca Tilikum situation.
The mention of the 1992 application refers to the inquiry SeaWorld made at the time it was trying to import Tilikum from Sealand to its Orlando park on an emergency basis. Part of that process was establishing that there was no good alternative to the import, so SeaWorld needed Iceland to say they didn’t want Tilikum back.
Separately, I learned that Tracy had been in touch with some of the former SeaWorld trainers about the possibility of participating in a rehab and release process for Tilikum.
So I think it is safe to conclude that Tracy filed the permit application, or at least played a role in it, in a well-meaning but quixotic hope that somehow she could help orchestrate Tilikum’s return to Icelandic waters. And the media took it from there.
SeaWorld’s “A Sea Of Surprises” is definitely surprising Macy’s. And not in a good way. But I guess you should never underestimate the power and energy of the orca-defending community. Or the power of television. And Blackfish is doing enough damage to the image of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, that we just might have to file a corporate incident report.
Buzzfeed gets in on the action with a sharp story about how Blackfish snuck up on Macy’s:
Blackfish, a damning documentary about SeaWorld’s treatment of animals after one of its whales killed a veteran trainer in 2010, premiered at Sundance in January, about three months before SeaWorld went public. Analysts who cover the company didn’t see it to be an issue. In September, J.P. Morgan analysts said it had “negligible, if any, impact on attendance,” given that it garnered just $1.8 million in the box office from its July 19 release. Goldman Sachs didn’t mention it in September and October notes about SeaWorld. The film didn’t show up in conference calls either, though visits have been falling.
But the documentary stopped being a non-issue when CNN aired it on Oct. 24, sweeping the ratings of every group under 55 during a Thursday night showing. Twitter said it was the most talked-about show on CNN in October, with 67,673 tweets seen by 7.3 million people. (It was the second-most tweeted about non-sports program that night after Scandal.)
Blackfish, SeaWorld, and the issue of whales in captivity have all been far more visible since then — and Macy’s is now catching a lot of the heat.
The company has drawn disparaging commentary for the float on its Facebook page and from celebrities including Alec Baldwin and Jason Biggs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is leading an online campaign to get rid of the float and has protested at Macy’s New York flagship store.
I guess while we are on the topic, can we just pause for a second to note how utterly vacuous and meaningless Macy’s standard PR line about this controversy is? Here’s what Macy’s told Buzzfeed (and pretty much every other news organization that has sought comment):
“[The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade] has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate, or other forms of advocacy, no matter how worthy….Its mission has always been about entertaining millions of families and spectators. While it is understandable that such a widely embraced event can sometimes feature elements or performances that some people may find disagreeable, Macy’s intention is to provide a range of entertaining elements without judgement, endorsement or agenda.”
By that standard, SeaWorld could duck all the heat about Shamu by swapping in a float celebrating the use of slaves to grow the cotton industry. And Macy’s would be okay with that, and let it roll (without “judgment” or “endorsement,” mind you). As long as it was “entertaining.”
PS: Note to Macy’s PR specialists: Since Macy’s actually chooses who and what will be featured in the parade, there is an implicit endorsement no matter how many times you try to say there isn’t.
PPS: When said PR specialists also say that the Macy’s parade “has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate, or other forms of advocacy, no matter how worthy” are they saying that the criticisms of SeaWorld raised by Blackfish are, well, worthy? Because that would be awkward.
Anyhow, read the whole Buzzfeed story, for lots more juicy goodness. It includes some of the pointed and clever tweets and comments that Macy’s has been dealing with. Like this one, from Jason Biggs:
The chatter about whether someone has filed for a permit to return Tilikum to Icelandic waters continues. I don’t for a minute believe that SeaWorld is in any way involved. And if any sort of permit request was in fact filed (I’m trying to confirm that) then I strongly suspect that someone is spoofing the Ministry Of Fisheries, or it has nothing to do with Tilikum.
More interesting to me is this report about all the rumors (sent to me by Elizabeth Batt). The details of Tilikum’s experience in captivity in Iceland during the many months before he was shipped to SeaLand of the Pacific have always been sparse. So this is worth noting, and adding to our understanding of this early chapter of Tilikum’s story:
Tilikum was captured by the Icelandic coast in 1983 and kept at the Aquarium in Hafnarfjörður to begin with.
There, Sigfús Halldórsson began the animal’s training. Sigfús is now a computer scientist and lives in England, but remembers Tilikum very well.
Tilikum was being prepped for transport to Canada when Sigfús started training him and was the smallest one of three killer whales kept at the aquarium.
Sigfús fed Tilikum on herring and had failed a few attempts to lure the animal into another pool. Eventually, it was decided upon to move Tilikum with an overhead crane.
“I foolishly jumped into the pool to remove the rail between the two pools and he must have been mad about being separated from the other two killer whales because he caught me from behind and pulled me underwater. He tore a big piece from the back of my wetsuit but I managed somehow to get out of the pool,” Sigfús told Vísir.is
He added that apart from that incident, Tilikum was normally sweet-tempered. “He was my friend, I often put my arm into his mouth to scratch his tongue; he liked that. He was normally very sweet except for that one time he got angry.”
Those were the cowboy days. My guess is that, in retrospect, Sigfus must think he is pretty lucky guy to have emerged from the “one time he got angry” fully intact.
I’ve been trying to post fewer of these sorts of videos, so apologies for setting you up for Thanksgiving with this one. But I am increasingly skeptical of the concept of “humane slaughter,” which is a concept that is often used to assuage qualms about meat-eating. So when I saw this video of a turkey farmer earnestly trying to show that his slaughter method is humane–which is either a spoof or unwittingly ironic–I decided to help the guy out.
(You only need to watch the first 3 minutes, if you can get that far).
The videos that come out of the industrial Butterball system are much, much, worse. But you know that, so I don’t need to post them, right?
(Hat tip: Free From Harm)