The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has landed itself in hot water due to the inclusion of a SeaWorld float, an organization believed to mistreat orca whales.

'Blackfish' Backlash For SeaWorld

SeaWorld has never been particularly loved by animal activist groups, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), but the company recently suffered a huge blow in public opinion with the release of Blackfish. Blackfish, a documentary that aired on CNN, exposes the history of capturing whales, which are then trained to use in SeaWorld performances.

After the 2010 death of a SeaWolrd trainer, Dawn Brancheau, who was dismembered by an orca mid-performance, filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite decided to make a documentary of the history of SeaWorld’s practice of breeding whales in captivity, removing young whales from their mothers and disregarding the safety of the animals and their trainers. The controversial documentary features testimonials from multiple ex-SeaWorld trainers who state that keeping the orcas in captivity for long periods of time (over 30 years) results in frustrated, and, for lack of a better word, angry killer whales.

SeaWorld vice president of zoological operations and veteran killer whale trainer Michael Scarpuzzi criticized Blackfish, saying the film ignores “the thousands of ill, orphaned and injured animals rescued by SeaWorld or the millions of dollars we dedicate to supporting conservation and research.”

Furthermore, Scarpuzzi maintains that SeaWorld has changed key practices since Brancheau’s death. SeaWorld supporters see a SeaWorld float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a way of reinvigorating public support in spite of the recent outrage.

PETA To Macy's: Remove SeaWorld Float

Now PETA has decided to organize a protest at the parade after failing to convince the Macy’s CEO to cancel the SeaWorld float with an online petition, an e-mail campaign to Macy’s CEO.

“SeaWorld and other marine parks are not educational. Instead, they teach people that it is acceptable to imprison animals, deprive them of their freedom of movement, forbid them the chance to establish a natural territory and explore, breed and separate them as we please, and watch them go insane from boredom and loneliness,” reads the PETA petition.

Famous voices have joined the protest, with actor Alec Baldwin chiming in, saying, “Please don’t be part of SeaWorld’s crisis-management plan.”

The SeaWorld float is said to celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary, and PETA’s e-mail campaign had reportedly sent Macy’s 78,000 messages when checked Nov. 15.

Orlando Veras, a spokesman for Macy’s, insists that the company does not want to court controversy. Rather, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is solely planned as a source of entertainment without any political agenda.

“The Parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate, or other forms of advocacy, no matter how worthy. Its mission has always been about entertaining millions of families and spectators… Macy’s intention is to provide a range of entertaining elements without judgment, endorsement or agenda,” Veras said in a statement.

The SeaWorld float is not the only offending float to be showcased in the Parade. On Nov. 15, rocker Joan Jett was removed from the South Dakota float after it was pointed out that Jett, a vegetarian and active PETA member, is a poor choice to represent a state of ranchers. Jett will still perform, but on another float.

– Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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More on Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Blackfish:

Dr. John Jett Video Interview On CNN's 'Blackfish,' The Future Of Killer Whales At Sea World

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Features Whoopi Goldberg, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cody Simpson

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