Since the release of the explosive 2013 documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld has ended their orca breeding program, ceased all whale kissing and dancing in their orca performances, and has made other changes to their animal encounters to make the performances more about education and less about entertainment.
The most recent of these changes is SeaWorld’s decision to cut all “dolphin surfing” tricks performed by the parks’ trainer during the dolphin shows. Dolphin surfing is a term used for tricks that include trainers riding through the water on dolphins by placing their feet on the backs or snouts of two swimming dolphins.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “the decision to move away from such showy theatrics in the dolphin shows was disclosed in a letter sent earlier this month by a SeaWorld attorney to the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The letter referenced a proposal made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA), which, as of Dec. 2019, holds 163 shares of SeaWorld stock, late last year to SeaWorld Entertainment shareholders, asking for a shareholder vote to end dolphin surfing in the parks’ shows.
The letter regarding SeaWorld’s plans to “no longer demonstrates ‘surfing’ (on dolphins) at any of its locations” states that SeaWorld trainers have already ceased riding on the back of dolphins and that the parks plan to phase out tricks that include trainers ride on a dolphin’s snout in the next few months, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Since the news of the change broke after PETA’s call for a shareholder vote regarding dolphin surfing, along with other measures the group has taken against the practice, the animal welfare organization is claiming responsibility for the end of dolphin surfing at SeaWorld.
“Following a months-long PETA campaign that included a damning veterinary report, a shareholder question asked by Alec Baldwin, numerous local ads, and more, SeaWorld admits in response to PETA’s latest shareholder proposal that it has stopped making trainers ride on dolphins’ backs and will soon end their practice of standing on dolphins’ faces in abhorrent circus-style shows. In response, PETA has withdrawn its shareholder proposal calling for an end to these cruel practices,” PETA wrote in a release obtained by PEOPLE.
“Stopping trainers from treating dolphins like surfboards means less abuse at SeaWorld, but orcas and other dolphins continue to suffer in tiny concrete tanks,” Tracy Reiman, PETA’s executive vice president, added in a statement. “The company seems intent on being dragged, kicking and screaming, into ultimately releasing these animals to seaside sanctuaries. PETA is calling on it to put a plan in place now.”
In response to PETA’s claims of victory, SeaWorld provided this statement to PEOPLE:
“SeaWorld is continually evolving its animal presentations to create the best experience for both guests and our animals. As an accredited zoological facility, our leadership solely determines the content and format of our presentations and is not influenced in any way by the actions of ill-informed activists, who are seemingly more interested in their profile and fund raising than they are the welfare of animals.”