The show’s not over yet.
On Sunday, SeaWorld San Diego hosted its final killer whale show – a hard-won victory for animal rights advocates.
But it turns out, it’s not their last.
SeaWorld is only ending shows at its San Diego park for now, meaning many of the 11 orcas at the parks in Orlando and San Antonio will still be forced to perform.
Early last year, SeaWorld announced that it was changing its PR strategy and planned to phase out the killer whale performances in an effort to combat public outcry over captive orcas.
Since 2013, the park has been plagued by fallout from Blackfish – the documentary that introduced the world to the tragic story of Tilikum, the now-dead captive orca at SeaWorld linked to three separate human deaths.
The film sparked a wave of concern over how the marine park was treating both its animals and its employees. So as part of its new strategy, SeaWorld announced it would end its theatrical whale shows in early 2017.
While the move was heralded as the end of an era, critics say the change is merely a repackaging of the old shows.
“The fountains, the style of music, the style of theatrics from our trainers, that’s all moving away,” Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park experience design for SeaWorld, told CBS.
Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld, hinted last November that the whales would still be performing, but the new shows ‘will be focused on … the natural behavior of the whales,’ and include a ‘conservation message inspiring people to act’.
But the director of Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite told CBS News the new show is designed to make the audience feel better, not the animals.
“The trainers aren’t safe, and the whales aren’t happy,” she said. “They’re still just doing manic circles around concrete swimming pools.”