After immense pressure from animal rights groups, Southwest Airlines has agreed to break ties with its long-standing corporate partner, SeaWorld.
For the last 25 years, Southwest Airlines has been in a partnership with SeaWorld, the controversial marine animal theme park criticized for keeping captive orcas. Southwest planes have been painted to look like SeaWorld’s orcas, which is kind of endearing if you’re a 7-year-old on your first flight. But not so pleasant if you happen to have seen the film “Blackfish” and know that those intelligent animals kept by SeaWorld live in pools so small it’s equal to humans spending their entire lives in bathtubs.
According to Mashable, “Officials at both companies said Thursday that the partnership wouldn’t be renewed at the end of the year when the current contract expires.”
But the airline was under pressure after “Blackfish” caused a swell of support for Tilikum, the male orca featured in the film. Animal rights groups held rallies at Southwest’s headquarters and provided a petition urging the airline to trade its SeaWorld partnership for something less cruel.
SeaWorld is suggesting that the decision wasn’t one-sided and that the park wanted to end the relationship as well. And according to Southwest, the company is refocusing its efforts on “international service.”
But there’s no question that Southwest was feeling the pressure to end its relationship with the theme park. Even if it’s not going to credit animal cruelty for its decision, it’s a victory for animal lovers and another blow to SeaWorld, which has been hit by petitions, protests and decreased sales as a result of “Blackfish.” The first quarter of 2014 hit SeaWorld with a revenue loss of 11 percent.
“Champagne corks were popping at PETA today when we heard that Southwest will no longer support SeaWorld and will repaint its planes,” Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA said in a statement. “The second I heard the good news, I knew that I’d be booking my next trip on Southwest.”
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