In the face of a pending lawsuit, officials at the San Diego International Airport have backed down on a refusal to run an anti-SeaWorld advertisement directed at incoming tourists.
The ad, sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, features smiling local actress Kathy Najimy (who voiced Peggy Hill in the animated series King of the Hill) asking visitors that "If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld."
"Nothing is more fundamental to the First Amendment than the principle that government may not silence speech because of its viewpoint," says David Loy, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties, which joined PETA in a lawsuit against the airport, which has been settled out of court.
While protests targeting SeaWorld have been ongoing for years, both with and without the support of PETA, the theme parks have received an onslaught of negative press in the last year due to the release of the documentary Blackfish and David Kirby's book Death at SeaWorld, both of which take a critical look at quality of life for orcas held in captivity.
SeaWorld, for its part, fired back that their parks and employees were the real animal welfare advocates, not PETA, with spokesperson David Koontz calling the group "an extremist organization and this ad demonstrates that, once again, they are more interested in publicity stunts than helping animals. The truth is that our animals at SeaWorld are healthy and happy."
The ad is set to debut at the Terminal 2 baggage claim today, May 22, alongside existing advertising promoting SeaWorld as an ideal tourist destination.