When I announced with SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in March that the theme park would stop breeding orcas at all of its operations, I emphasized that the pledge was just one element of a bigger set of commitments from the company on animal welfare. (Last month, California codified a ban on orca breeding in the state, a policy that The HSUS supported.)
Today, Manby and I published an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest paper, urging Japan to end its dolphin hunts and its commercial whaling. Today, SeaWorld also announced a new food sourcing policy at all of its 12 parks, including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place.
The company is switching 100 percent of its egg usage away from battery cage operations to cage-free by the end of next year. Within the next several months, it’s switching its pork purchasing only to suppliers that have announced commitments and published targets to move away from gestation crates. As many people understandably view SeaWorld primarily through the marine animal lens, we must also ensure the animals in the company’s food supply chain aren’t forgotten. With 22 million visitors, these changes will influence the lives of countless animals.
In addition to more humane sourcing, the company has made it a “major priority” over the next year to increase the number of plant-based meals for its guests. As part of this commitment, my colleagues Ken Botts and Wanda White have been working extensively with SeaWorld’s chefs on culinary training surrounding plant-based concepts.
Our work with SeaWorld is a journey and we appreciate the steps the company has taken. At The HSUS we celebrate progress, but we want to see reform on a variety of fronts. Whether it’s working with us on anti-shark finning legislation in Congress, incorporating more non-animal entertainment features at its parks, changing its food policies for the better, or advocating for protections for marine creatures in the United States and abroad, these are good, practical advances for our cause. We want every company, from every kind of background, to join this cause and take measures to advance its mission. We want to embrace and celebrate change, and the moves SeaWorld has made in this area are real and substantive, and deserve our recognition.