Kelly Slater Stands Up To SeaWorld

Kelly Slater and Kevin Ancell, pictured with one of Kelly’s orca-inspired boards designed by Kevin. Photo: @kellyslater

On Wednesday this week Kelly Slater attempted to challenge SeaWorld over its treatment of captive orca whales, by submitting a question during the chain’s annual online shareholders meeting. Slater had teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who are able to participate in the shareholders meetings of companies whose practices they consider unethical by buying the minimum amount of stock necessary.

But Slater’s question was not accepted, although whether this was due to a conscious decision on the part of SeaWorld or technical difficulties at Slater’s end — a tiny remote island in the South Pacific — remains unclear. Slater suggested the marine park was to blame on his Facebook page, writing that SeaWorld actively “prevented” him from asking his question; PETA says it is currently “exploring our legal options over SeaWorld’s lock-out of dissenting voices who speak for the animals they hold prisoner.” SeaWorld on the other hand claim they never received Slater’s question, which would sound like an extremely weak and implausible excuse were Kelly not currently on the island of Tavarua, where the internet connection is unsurprisingly not always reliable, and was indeed completely down for a period this week. Last year actress Jessica Biel spoke on PETA’s behalf at a similar meeting, where her question was accepted.

In any case, here’s the question Kelly would have asked, had he been given the chance:

My name is Kelly Slater, and I’m here on behalf of PETA. The veil has been lifted on SeaWorld. All the ads in the world won’t change what the public now knows to be true: that the company imprisons highly intelligent, emotionally complex, social animals in tiny, barren concrete tanks, which leads to aggression and disease.

SeaWorld is experiencing declining attendance and revenue, and dozens of companies, including Southwest Airlines, Panama Jack, and Mattel, have recently ended partnerships with SeaWorld.

As a professional surfer, I’m lucky and privileged to be able to spend the majority of my time in the ocean – it’s the place where I feel most at home, and thus, I feel an obligation to protect that which I have a voice in influencing.

Please, tell us, when will SeaWorld allow the animals it holds captive to return to their home – the ocean – by retiring them to a seaside sanctuary? And wouldn’t this at least be viewed, if nothing else, as a public relations win for you?

By righting the wrongs you have committed in the name of corporate profit for so many years, you may actually be able to recoup some of the respect that has been lost in the eyes of the public and work toward an end to the problem of animal suffering. Thank you.

This, meanwhile, is an Instagram message Kelly posted last year, accompanying the photo of Kevin Ancell’s orca-themed board artwork shown at the top of the page:

Have you seen the film #Blackfish yet? I assumed a lot about #Orcas‘ intelligence but had no real knowledge on the subject. Adults spend their entire lives in pods alongside their parents and swim up to 100 miles/day. They’re one of the most intelligent and self-aware species in the world (making them highly inquisitive and unsuited for captivity). Although it’s not totally understood at this time, most adult males and some females in captivity encounter dorsal fin collapse which is rather rare in the wild unless the whale is sick or injured. Captive whales have cute #Chinook names like #Tilikum#Shamu#Kyuquot or #Kasatka. I’m assuming that’s so they can sound authentically Eskimo-like or something? I’ve always found that odd. 

For these animals, freedom=happiness. I know there’s an argument that people wouldn’t be exposed to them otherwise and that it potentially helps species conservation yet there are no studies correlating whales or dolphins benefitting in any way from being publicly displayed in theme parks. In fact, quite the opposite. These mammals are strictly used to make money and sell tickets. If people want to be exposed to these creatures badly enough they should go see them in the wild where they’re happy and don’t attack or kill people. As a side note, I believe all of these trainers have their hearts in the right place and unfortunately they’re the ones stuck with the responsibility and guilt about the fate of these #MajesticBeings.

So I figured I’d paint my boards like Orcas to raise some awareness about the topic and the film. I even got the chance to speak with #GabrielaCowperthwaite, the director, writer and producer of Blackfish, to educate myself further on the subject. And one of my favorite artists, @kevinancell (ANP RVCA artist), has been kind enough to work his magic on my boards. It’s cool to work on a project with Kevin and great to see how crazy passionate he is about these paintings and the #SubliminalMessages in them. 

If all goes to plan, we’ll auction a bunch of these boards to raise some money for a good cause. #TheOrcaBoardProject#AnimalSlavery #TheCove @seashepherd#DawnBrancheau #Namu #DFW #Grampus#KillerWhales


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