When one of the world’s largest zoological organizations teams up with a leading animal protection and advocacy organization, it’s an indicator that humanity is at a revolutionary moment in our relations with animals.
Entrepreneurialism, innovation and changing attitudes all are transforming the traditional ways in which animals are treated.
That is what’s behind the surprising news that SeaWorld will be partnering with the Humane Society of the United States. Instead of adversaries standing leagues apart, our organizations are finding common ground and working collaboratively to solve challenges both large and small.
It’s also why SeaWorld will make this the last generation of whales at its marine parks and will phase out the use of these orcas in theatrical shows.
The orcas who are now the centerpiece of the SeaWorld brand will no longer be bred, and, because SeaWorld hasn’t collected a whale from the wild in more than 40 years, that will make this the last generation under human care. And going forward, instead of theatrical performances, visitors will experience the orcas in more natural settings, doing the things that come naturally to them.
How did these big changes and this unlikely partnership come about? And what does it mean for the future of the environment and our economy? Over dinner not long ago, a mutual friend introduced us, the CEOs of SeaWorld and the Humane Society. Since the debate about animals under human care is so passionate on both sides, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a food fight break out.
But, as soon as we started talking, we discovered that we have far more points of agreement than disagreement. To start, we both shared the view that the most serious threats to marine creatures are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and human-caused disasters, such as oil or chemical spills.
Because of the aggregation of these threats, far more than 3,000 terrestrial and marine species are endangered. Some scientists predict that, only 100 years from now, about half of all large animals will be on the extinction list.
Governments can’t address this crisis alone. For wild places and wildlife to survive, nongovernmental organizations like the Humane Society and zoological organizations like SeaWorld have indispensable roles to play.
That’s why we’re taking action — together. We will be conducting joint efforts against the killing of whales, seals and other marine mammals. We’re also combatting so-called shark finning — removing sharks’ fins for use as a delicacy and then throwing the carcass back in the water where, unable to swim, the shark experiences an agonizing death. We will also join together in public advocacy for ocean ecosystems and against the destruction of coral reefs and reef fish.
The Humane Society recognizes the critical work SeaWorld performs as one of the largest rescue organizations for marine creatures. SeaWorld will increase its focus on rescue operations — so that the thousands of stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions will have a second chance. In order to make the practices at its marine parks more humane and environmentally sustainable, SeaWorld will make sure that all of the food provided for the guests meets certain standards, such as sustainable seafood, eggs from cage-free birds and pork from crate-free pigs.
These aren’t only environmentally conscious policies — they’re smart business practices too. Over the past half-century, public attitudes towards animals have changed, and dramatically so.
Now, through this partnership and the progress it produces, we expect more Americans will see SeaWorld as part of the solution — a company committed to marine mammal rescue, research, and education. As the company prospers in the years ahead, it will become a spotlight example for other companies, demonstrating that it is desirable and possible to do well by doing good.
Make no mistake: Consumers are demanding change. They are driving the nation’s economy in an animal-friendly, environmentally sustainable direction. And this agreement answers these consumer demands with meaningful progress.
Together, we are advancing the goal of a humane economy, where changing public attitudes make the marketplace a mechanism for promoting the welfare of all living creatures.
Management theorists often speak of win-win decision-making. This partnership is just that and more. It’s a win for marine mammals and the oceans. It’s a win for the consumers who care passionately about wildlife and wild places. And it’s a win for the animal advocacy organizations and the accredited zoological organizations that helped form and foster those very ideas.
Joel Manby is CEO of SeaWorld. Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.