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Repulsed by Animal Cruelty, Attendance (and Profits) at SeaWorld Plummet

"People don't want to watch abused animals being forced to perform pointless circus tricks," says animal rights group

SeaWorld, which has been bombarded with negative publicity in the two years since a documentary exposed its abuse of orca whales, reported a steep drop in earnings on Thursday. (Photo: Greg Fischer/flickr/cc)

Since the 2013 release of Blackfish, a bombshell documentary exposing animal cruelty at SeaWorld, the aquatic theme park has lost increasing levels of both profits and visitors, reporting an 84 percent plunge in net income in just three months.

SeaWorld announced its quarterly earnings on Thursday, acknowledging the steep drop in profits as a result of "brand challenges."

Blackfish chronicled sustained abuse of orcas at SeaWorld and the consequences of keeping the animals in captivity. It focused on the case of one whale in particular, Tilikum, and how his mistreatment and confinement contributed to the deaths of three people, including his trainer. The film turned SeaWorld into an emblem representing the abuse of animals held in captivity for profit and entertainment, elevating longstanding calls by animal rights groups to boycott such theme parks.

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But SeaWorld also generated its own negative publicity last month after an investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) exposed the company's alleged undercover efforts to sabotage local animal rights campaigns.

That report, released last month, suggested that a 28-year-old SeaWorld employee named Paul T. McComb infiltrated a PETA protest group to "fish" for information about protests and campaigns targeting the theme park. McComb allegedly used a P.O. Box registered to Ric Marcelino, the director of security for SeaWorld San Diego.

Whatever the reasons, the drop in attendance "really isn’t that complicated," PETA said in response to SeaWorld's earnings report. "People don’t want to watch abused animals being forced to perform pointless circus tricks. SeaWorld can either retire the animals to coastal sanctuaries, where they can start the rehabilitation process, or continue refusing to evolve and put itself out of business."

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