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SeaWorld loses another PR battle in fight to use orcas

Animal rights activists have won a court case allowing them to display an anti-SeaWorld ad to passengers arriving at the San Diego International airport, according to an article in UT San Diego. The marine animal theme park has locations in San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando.

For several years, SeaWorld has faced pressure from groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over using captive killer whales, or orcas, in its shows. Recently, a California state assemblyman introduced a bill that would ban the use of orcas in shows or breeding them in captivity. According to Reuters, Assemblyman Richard Bloom said his interest in the issue was sparked by the movie “Blackfish,” which documents the killing of a trainer by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando.

Meanwhile, PETA and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority in March for not allowing ads advising tourists to avoid SeaWorld. According to a joint statement by ACLU and PETA, the agency cannot refuse to run the ad, since it welcomes ads from other nonprofits and from SeaWorld.

“Nothing is more fundamental to the First Amendment than the principle that government may not silence speech because of its viewpoint,” said David Loy, legal director at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, in a statement. “We are glad this case resulted in the vindication of PETA’s free-speech right to reach San Diego visitors on the same terms as any other advertiser.”

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

The Airport Authority and its ad vendor JCDecaux settled the lawsuit out of court. The ads began appearing on Tuesday.