- - Friday, November 21, 2014

PETA and radical animal activists everywhere rejoiced last week when SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment released its third quarter earnings, which were 28% lower than the same quarter last year. The activists oppose the human use of animals, and are seeking to use the news to advance their high profile but broadly unsuccessful campaign against aquariums, zoos and circuses.

You might recall PETA’s 2011 lawsuit against SeaWorld claiming that five killer whales were being enslaved in violation of the 13th Amendment.  

However, since the release of “Blackfish”, a discredited propaganda film which seeks credibility by being styled as a documentary, the activists have been making waves. In the midst of breaking news about wars, terrorism and plane crashes, CNN has aired the advocacy piece tens of times. The self-declared “most trusted name in news” didn’t even require changes when former SeaWorld trainers used in the film labeled it misleading.

Former senior trainer Bridgette Pirtle, who left SeaWorld in 2010, gave “Blackfish” producers video footage and her perspective on whale training. She later described the film as “exploitation” and has accused the producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite of distorting the facts to advance an agenda. She said Cowperthwait’s goal was, “To win the Academy Award. Once it was apparent that there was no real interest in revealing the whole truth, I knew it was another person’s attempt to capitalize” on the tragedy of the trainers who were in fact killed by Orcas. 

Through false claims and clever editing, the film centers on the alleged poor treatment of killer whales and contrived concern for the well-being of park professionals.

However, anti-SeaWorld activists aren’t primarily interested in killer whales or for their human trainers for that matter. Instead, “Blackfish” is an emotionally manipulative, and apparently initially effective trojan horse in radical campaign to change how society interacts with animals.

Don’t take my word for it. Self-proclaimed animal rights advocate Chris Sosa told AffectMagazine.com last week that, “The way that the average humans harms animals is not through visiting SeaWorld. A customer could visit SeaWorld every day the park is open for a year and not match the direct negative impact they have on animals during one day of grocery shopping.”

Sosa sums up the radical view as directly and honestly as I’ve ever seen it laid out. “The issue is not restricted to the purchase of meat directly. Products like Jell-O contain gelatin, a substance derived from animal collagen. Each gallon of milk comes from a restrained being, usually severely abused both physically and psychologically before eventually being slaughtered. Every egg is the product of a chicken that wasn’t born, usually taken from a mother in conditions so vile the farming industry is taking increasing action to make filming the premises illegal. 

The radical animal activist agenda goes well beyond ending human interaction with animals outside of the wild – and zoos and aquariums as we know them. Some of these activists, who hold that animals aren’t property to be owned by humans, argue that we shouldn’t be allowed to own pets.

I was skeptical when SeaWorld attempted to placate the activists by doubling the size of tanks at their parks, and adding even more enrichment opportunities for the whales. I’m not against the changes, but if any observer thought it would quell the criticism from activists, they were sorely naive.

Sure enough, Jared Goodman, director of animal law for the PETA Foundation gave lie to the idea that SeaWorld wasn’t treating the Orcas properly, telling Reuters, “a bigger prison is still a prison.” There’s nothing SeaWorld, other aquariums, or zoos can do to satisfy these activists short of releasing animals to the wild.

Allegations that the animals are being mistreated are just rhetorical tools to advance the broader radical campaign that most Americans don’t support. Ironically, it turns out, its the activists that are telling the fish story.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

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