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Anti SeaWorld law inspired by Blackfish gets beached in California

SeaWorld San Diego had a victory in California.
SeaWorld San Diego had a victory in California.
Barb Nefer

An anti SeaWorld law inspired by the movie "Blackfish" was stranded on the beach in California on April 8, despite the best effort of animal activists to push it through. The law, which would only have applied to California, would have forced SeaWorld San Diego to stop its orca breeding program. It also would have halted killer whale shows, thus crippling one of the park's major attractions.

However, the bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom, did an abrupt about face on AB2140, leaving it stalled in committee. As he explained, “It’s unfortunate that much of the conversation has been fueled … by fear and invective and misinformation. It’s clear that many committee members are simply unprepared to make a decision on the bill."

His words echo others who once spoke out against SeaWorld before learning the facts and offering their support. For example, bands like REO Speedwagon cancelled their Bands Brew & BBQ appearances at SeaWorld Orlando after being bombarded by cut-and-paste rhetoric from activists via social media. However, REO's Bruce Hall took the park up on its offer to visit. He then called the cancellation decision a "mistake" on his Facebook page, stating, "Had the opportunity today to take a tour of the facilities at Sea World and saw the truth first hand about this wonderful park. For the record, I never wanted to cancel our show here. So glad that my good friend, Larry the Cable Guy, was able to pick up the gig and I was happy to be there and support him."

Meanwhile, Heart, which had also cancelled, promptly played a concert at a rodeo. Anyone familiar with animal rights issues knows that rodeos have been under attack by PETA and other groups for years, yet the band had no problem supporting such an event when there was no activist outcry.

The Academy Awards also backed off of "Blackfish," denying it a widely expected Oscar nomination. The snub came just as former trainers started speaking out about the film's inaccuracies. One of those trainers, Bridgette Pirtle, said in a Micechat interview that she was specifically asked by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to wait until after awards season before going public with her criticisms.

Now, Bloom's words show that he, too, may have been convinced to author the law without knowing all of the facts. Rather than helping animals, his law might well have dealt a blow to San Diego's economy for no good reason. Lobbyist Scott Wetch told lawmakers that if AB2140 passed, SeaWorld San Diego, would likely have just sent its orcas to its parks in other states.

Technically, the bill could be revived and come back before lawmakers in 2015. Realistically, it looks like a victory that will stand unimpeded for SeaWorld San Diego as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

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