Point Loma students speak out against SeaWorld's orca shows; school board passes resolution calling for animal sanctuaries
PLHS students speak to the school board.
Attempts to persuade SeaWorld San Diego to change its business model eliminating orca shows was rejoined recently as Point Loma High School (PLHS) students supported the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) board, which unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for SeaWorld to explore animal sanctuaries for its marine mammal entertainers.
This renouncement of SeaWorld from the school board comes during the theme park's recent national advertising campaign trying to improve its image. Coincidentally, the San Diego school board's resolution also comes on the heels of a book released from former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove, which condemns the theme park's actions with and treatment of its orcas.
Last week in San Diego, four 16-year-old high school juniors from the Cinematic Arts Program at PLHS spoke in behalf of the resolution proposed by school board members Kevin Beiser and Richard Barrera asking SeaWorld to explore animal sanctuaries.
Animal rights groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), have been campaigning for months asking SeaWorld to consider changing its business model. They want the marine park to drop live marine mammal shows altogether, which some allege are exploiting animals commercially, in favor of creating as-yet-undefined “sanctuaries,” where marine mammals could be exhibited by SeaWorld patrons in their natural environment, but where mammals would not be compelled to perform in choreographed shows.
“I am proud to say although my students were greatly outnumbered, they were victorious in securing a controversial unanimous vote on a resolution Supporting Educational Opportunities for Students on the Human Treatment of Animals,” said Anthony Palmiotto, PLHS cinematic arts advisor. “This resolution comes on the heels of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus announcing their plan to phase out elephant acts over the next few years.”
Palmiotto said the question now is, will the SDUSD resolution proposed by Beiser and Barrera, and unanimously passed by the school board, help influence SeaWorld to do the same for their animal acts?
“The students from my class think so,” Palmiotto said.
PLHS students spoke on their own behalf.
“As I grew up I realized animals were being exploited just for our entertainment,” said PLHS junior Lavonniee Pyant. “To know that there is more of a social awareness spreading around the exploitation of animals in the entertainment industry is great. Getting the opportunity to speak for the animals at the school board meeting was extremely rewarding.”
“I really enjoyed being able to speak on behalf of the many animals that are unjustly treated in the entertainment industry,” said PLHS junior D’Anna Abril. “I've had the opportunity to visit tiger temples and elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that don't have animal acts and I felt it was time for SeaWorld to change. I really just wanted to stand up for those who couldn't and let their voices and mine be heard.”
“I believe animals should be treated with the same respect as any human being,” said Alex Allen, a PLHS junior. “Looking for alternatives for animal shows is crucial not just because people have come to realize the extent to which the trainers abuse the creatures, but also because we are evolving as a society. That evolution needs to evolve to favor all creatures, not just ourselves.”
“We are taught that we need to stand up for those who cannot do it for themselves, but when did we decide that this idea only applies to humans?” asked Logan Leising. “We need to wake up. To know that there were so many others like me, was a true pleasure, and I am incredibly honored to have had the opportunity to speak for the animals. And I was even more pleased to hear that the school board supported the resolution.”
At the school board hearing, the PLHS students’ opposition was SeaWorld San Diego president John T. Reilly and two-dozen staff members of the park and their families.
SeaWorld’s answer to animal-rights activists’ charges that its killer whale exhibit amounts to commercial exploitation came Aug. 15 when the theme park announced plans to nearly double the size of its existing San Diego orca environment.
SeaWorld’s blue world project calls for the construction of a 10-million-gallon tank environment, set to open to the public in 2018.
Marine park officials said the 50-foot deep exhibit, with a 1.5-acre surface area, is expected to give guests more access to views of killer whales underwater and would allow the animals increased engagement with park experts. Plans for the tanks also include a “fast-water current,” which would allow the orcas to swim against moving water.
“Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales,’” said SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. president and CEO Jim Atchison. “Our guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean or get a birds-eye view from above.’’
SeaWorld Entertainment has also pledged $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research and plans a ”multi-million dollar partnership” to focus on ocean health, company officials said. The research includes projects to understand killer whales’ hearing ranges and gain information on their nutritional status and reproduction.