PETA protest: ‘Release the orcas’

SAN DIEGO -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested outside SeaWorld on Sunday morning to demand that the theme park release its orcas.

Seizing on the departure of former chief executive Joel Manby last week, PETA is taking this time to call on the company to release its whales into sea sanctuaries.

SeaWorld came under fire following the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which led to scrutiny of its animal welfare practices and a decline in attendance. Manby was brought on amid that controversy. He left the company last week as part of a planned "transition" by the SeaWorld board.

"How many CEOs have to go before SeaWorld lets the orcas go?" PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said. "The writing is on the tank walls -- SeaWorld's only hope of survival is to release these animals into sea sanctuaries where they'd finally have a taste of freedom."

SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz released a statement:

"The truth is that our animals, including our orcas, live healthy and thriving lives in our care. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, SeaWorld is “meeting or exceeding the highest standard of animal care and welfare of any zoological organization in the world.” While less than 10 people protested near the park today, nearly 20,000 people will visit SeaWorld San Diego over the weekend, each being inspired and educated by our animals. SeaWorld is the nation’s true animal welfare organization, and the real advocates for animals are our trainers, aviculturists, animal-care staff and veterinarians. We will continue to focus our energy and resources on real issues and helping animals. So far this year our rescue team has come to the aid of more than 30 marine mammals and birds, giving them a second chance at life. We have rescued more than 17,000 ill, injured and stranded animals over the last 50 years."