PETA seeks shareholder vote to ban SeaWorld trainers from riding dolphins

  • Trainers swim with the dolphins during the Dolphin Days show at SeaWorld in San Diego. TNS

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Published: 12/11/2019 10:26:51 PM

SAN DIEGO — A leading animal rights group is taking its fight to stop SeaWorld trainers from riding dolphins during shows directly to the company’s shareholders.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has long battled SeaWorld over its handling of killer whales, proposed on Tuesday a shareholder vote to ban certain performance stunts, such as balancing on dolphins’ nostrums.

PETA’s proposed nonbinding resolution states “in order to address the most pressing issue that SeaWorld faces today — the public’s continued opposition to captive-animal displays _ the shareholders urge the board to stop allowing trainers to stand on dolphins’ faces and ride on their backs in exploitive and potentially harmful circus-style shows.”

A SeaWorld spokesman said the company has yet to receive the proposal but called it “another attempt by PETA to distract from the real work SeaWorld does every day of caring for and protecting thousands of animals.”

The company contends it has helped 36,000 sick, injured and stranded animals over the past five decades.

“An organization that claims to be truly committed to animal welfare should want to partner with SeaWorld to increase animal rescue and conservation efforts,” the company said.

PETA believes it has met the requirements _ including owning a minimum number of SeaWorld shares _ to qualify the resolution for the company’s proxy ballot at its next annual meeting, which typically is held in June.

But it could face challenges. PETA submitted six proposals for shareholder votes at various companies this year, none of which made it to a final ballot.

The proposals were either settled with the company or successfully challenged before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Brett Miller, head of data solutions for proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services ESG.

“Animal welfare-related proposals have been voted on by shareholders far less in recent years,” said Miller. “Compared to 13 proposals in 2012, only one proposal was voted on in the U.S. in 2019.”

In that balloting, Kohl’s Corp. shareholders rejected a proposal to adopt vendor policy on animal welfare, which received only 7% support, said Miller.

After battling SeaWorld for years over the treatment of captive killer whales, PETA recently has begun targeting the company’s dolphin shows, including the well-known Dolphins Days.

In June, PETA published a study about potential injury from tricks, particularly trainers balancing on dolphins’ snouts or riding on their backs.

According to PETA, these maneuvers lack any biological justification and are devoid of educational value to the public.

“The dolphin’s lower jaw, which is highly sensitive and crucial for hearing, bears nearly the full force of the trainer’s body weight during these stunts,” said PETA. “Forcing dolphins to engage in this highly unnatural behavior can cause them stress and may exacerbate injuries that they have sustained as a result of being confined in tiny tanks.”

SeaWorld strongly denies that these maneuvers harm its dolphins, about 30 of which reside at the San Diego park.

Still, since the highly critical “Blackfish” documentary film in 2013, SeaWorld has shifted its emphasis away from live animal shows and moved toward roller coasters and other non-animal entertainment.

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(c)2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): SEAWORLD


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