SeaWorld’s announcement on Thursday morning that it will no longer breed killer whales in captivity after this generation lacked the appropriate heart and remorse, social media users said.
In early reactions to the marine park’s news, which it broke in a Los Angeles Times op-ed by SeaWorld president and CEO Joel Manby, Twitter users said the focus of his message was wrong.
In the op-ed, Manby, who stepped into the CEO role last April, said the move is a response to the "attitudinal change that [SeaWorld] helped to create." He explained that when the park opened in 1964, orcas were feared, hated, and hunted, but SeaWorld gave the public the opportunity to learn about the mammals and see them up close.
Some social media users thought he should have apologized or admitted wrongdoing, rather than blaming the decision on "changing attitudes."
Manby also acknowledged the growing criticism SeaWorld has received from those who "don't think orcas belong in human care." The theme park’s reputation has suffered since the 2013 release of Blackfish, a documentary that negatively portrayed its treatment of orca whales.
SeaWorld also said it would partner with the Humane Society of the United States and donate $50 million to end commercial whaling and seal hunting over the next five years.
The company also disclosed that ending orca breeding will save $15 million in three to five years in marketing spending to improve its reputation.
SeaWorld's 2015 revenue was $1.37 billion, down slightly from $1.38 billion in the previous year. In the fourth quarter, it posted an adjusted loss of $9.6 million on $267.9 million in revenue.
The company’s stock was up by more than 4% on Thursday after the announcement.
Social media users also reacted critically to the timing of the announcement. Last week, SeaWorld said Tilikum, an orca featured in Blackfish, is dying.
Here is a collection of early reactions to the announcement.
Sea World ending orca breeding. Timing is wise--they're getting ahead of the public relations crisis that will occur when Tilikum dies.— LSC Communications (@Traci_Writes) March 17, 2016
So #SeaWorld is ending Orca breeding because attitudes have changed? How about because it's wrong, it's cruel and your excuses are weak.— Faith (@FaithFabry) March 17, 2016
I wish Seaworld would admit that 'yes, we're sorry, orcas shouldn't be kept in captivity', but this is AMAZING news https://t.co/pmXGYq1x8W— Charlotte Varela (@charlottevarela) March 17, 2016
Why would they even announce this?! It sounds so heartless... SeaWorld might have the dumbest PR ever. https://t.co/2rErmS6ggI— Brian (@YesThatBrian) March 17, 2016
Wow...they caved. Probably a smart PR move though since their reputation is so permanently marred. Poor SeaWorld. pic.twitter.com/fe0xlz3drC— Alyssa Duross (@listentolyss) March 17, 2016
Others were happy SeaWorld is finally making changes.
Manby acknowledged the decision to end #seaworld KW breeding was controversial internally. He made the decision. This is why he is CEO.— Lauren Rhone (@onebravegirl) March 17, 2016