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SeaWorld goes to Sacramento

SeaWorld Reps Lobby at California Capitol

If you have watched ‘House of Lies’ you probably have a vision of what it may have looked like in Sacramento today inside the state capitol of California.  Representatives from SeaWorld San Diego including President John Reilly, a veterinarian, and a trainer led an “informal” briefing to law makers in room 226.  They brought with them a prepared packet and are expected to spend the day in the halls meeting with legislators, just days ahead of the committee meeting on April 8th.  Among staff members from lawmakers, Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez, Shirley Weber and Brian Maienschein were in attendance.

In true form, SeaWorld representatives immediately tried to kick the media out of the room prior to the start of the briefing.  Their particular brand of messaging works best in sound bites and branded imagery.  The risk of being asked a question that doesn’t have a scripted answer is a risk that SeaWorld has always side-stepped by refusing requests by the media to have a representative answer questions ad-lib or to appear live.

Jeremy White of the Sacramento Bee reports that during their statements today SeaWorld defended the separation of mother and calf, stated that in addition to a popular guest attraction, the orca benefit from the Shamu show and would “rather be in the show than out of the show”.  Speakers also trotted out the familiar ‘without us’ statement in saying “our mission is to inspire people to do something about the ocean” and defended trainer safety.

John Reilly with Big Check at SeaWorld
SeaWorld San Diego President John Reilly (Left)

In an email, Assemblymember Bloom’s Chief of Staff told me “I want to be clear, this was not a hearing as has been reported by others.  It was a briefing by SeaWorld to interested staff”.  I have requests pending with a reporter on the scene, the Assemblymember’s office, and the PR team for any audio/video or transcripts of the briefing.

A packet was prepared by SeaWorld to hand out to lawmakers which, according to Sacramento Bee capitol reporter Jeremy White, labels the Blackfish movie “Propaganda” and the bill itself “Extreme”.  That is familiar messaging if you have spent any time on Twitter and have received the promoted tweets that quickly follow any mention of Blackfish.  I expect to have a copy of the packet to post sometime later today.

Next Steps

I have reached out to a contact in Mercury Public Affairs, Adam Keigwin who is the lobbyist in support the bill on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute headed by Naomi Rose and are co-sponsors of AB 2140.  Adam and his team are coordinating lobbying and public relations efforts that support the bill.  I hope to relay some information from the official team as to a call to action for proponents of the bill as soon as possible.

The AWI website states that “The Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140) will receive its first hearing in the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife of the California State Assembly on Tuesday, April 8th at 9 a.m.” During this hearing anyone will be able to provide public comment in support of the bill.  In the mean time, here are some activities that everyone can get involved in:

  •  A citizen lobbyist effort is being planned for April 7th in Sacramento spearheaded by Dr. Naomi Rose.  An RSVP form to get involved can be found here.
  • Those that are not in the State of California who wish to support the bill can continue to add their names to the 1 million plus on this petition in a show of world-wide solidarity.
  • Voters in California are urged to write, call, email their representatives.  A sample letter can be found on the AWI website, and has made it easy to identify your representative and quickly call or email them on this page.
  • Continue to spread awareness of the bill on Social Media by using hashtags of cities in California combined with #BlackFishBill
  • Share this information on any Facebook groups that you belong to regarding Blackfish, Whales, Dolphins, Animal Rights, etc.

This post will be updated as new information is available regarding today’s events in Sacramento and if audio/video becomes available as requested.

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