Animal activists who are concerned about SeaWorld's treatment of orcas will be rallying at Southwest Airlines headquarters on Wednesday, asking the Dallas-based carrier to end its relationship with the marine park company.
The activists plan to deliver a petition signed by 27,000 people on the website Change.org to Southwest at the rally, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the company's Love Field headquarters.
"Southwest needs to understand that they are promoting animal cruelty seen in Blackfish if they continue to partner with SeaWorld as they have done for the last 25 years," said activist Robin Merritt in a statement. "They do promotional deals, send out joint-press releases patting each other on the back, and are working hand in hand to profit from the misery of animals exploited for SeaWorld."
The 2013 documentary movie, Blackfish, examined the circumstances surrounding the death of a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando when the orca bull Tilikum dragged the trainer underwater and drowned her. The film, which is being considered for an Academy Award, also looks at the practice of keeping orcas in captivity. SeaWorld did not participate in the film and recently placed newspaper ads defending its orca habitats.
The airline's relationship with SeaWorld has spanned several decades with the airline painting several aircraft in its fleet like the park's famous marine mammal, Shamu. Last year, Southwest unveiled Penguin One, an aircraft painted with several penguins as part of SeaWorld Orlando's new attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.
Southwest issued this statement saying it is not contemplating any changes to its relationship with SeaWorld at this time.
"Southwest has a longstanding relationship with SeaWorld that is based on travel and bringing families together. We are currently in a multi-year contract with SeaWorld, and we are not contemplating changes to that at this time. We are engaged with Sea World related to the recent concerns being raised. We are in a listening and education mode with the goal of upholding our commitments as a good corporate citizen," the company said.