PETA has been running a protracted campaign to shutdown SeaWorld for years, but the movement really gained momentum with the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." Like the outcry around elephants performing at circuses, animal activists say it's just as cruel to ask sea mammals to perform for humans.
Goodall said she remains hopeful that humans are gaining a greater sense of empathy for animals and losing interest in watching them perform for entertainment.
Activist groups like PETA call SeaWorld an "abusement park" that enslaves intelligent sea life, isolates the animals in concrete tanks and permanently erodes the creatures' social skills. PETA's "SeaWorld of Hurt" campaign also has serious concerns about the longevity of killer whales under SeaWorld's care and supervision:
It’s not surprising that these captive animals do not live as long as their wild cousins. While wild male orcas live an average of 30 years and up to 60 years and females an average of 50 years and up to more than 100, 38 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch at an average age of only 13. Not one has reached the maximum lifespan of an orca in nature. More than 100 other dolphins have also died, alongside countless other animals.
But many marine biologists and zoologists say SeaWorld is a necessity, and the killer whale shows are just a small fraction of what the entertainment company really does. The company's considerable financial resources go to saving more animals than just the few dozen orcas SeaWorld has in captivity:
SeaWorld San Diego’s stranded animal rescue team saved 440 animals last year alone, and SeaWorld claims that it has rescued 23,000 animals in the last 40 years, according to an article by VoicesofSanDiego.org, a non-profit news organization.
The killer whales also receive the kind of care that would make humans jealous.
SeaWorld has five full-time trainers assigned to each whale, a local and national veterinary team and staff dedicated to maintaining every aspect of their water quality. The whales are also provided with enrichment multiple times a day.