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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.

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Comments

Visduh May 22, 2014 @ 11:04 a.m.

Sea World's mouthpiece has it wrong. This is not a publicity stunt. PETA is hoping to hit the park in the pocketbook, and money talks louder than words. While I'm not a PETA supporter at all, they do have a right to buy advertising. But this is unheard of in San Diego, and strikes the vitals of the local power structure. Putting down one of the best and most popular local tourist attractions? Horrors! And right in the airport in the faces of arriving visitors? Double horrors!! I cannot think of anything like this since the campaign of a decade or more ago that put pictures on buses of people being detained by the Border Patrol. That was a bit of an embarrassment for the local tourism cabal, but it didn't seem to have much impact. This one could start to hurt the whole tourism picture, which right now is not doing so well, if hotel occupancy is any guide.

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monaghan May 22, 2014 @ 3:32 p.m.

It doesn't take much to join the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and becoming a member is money well-spent. The local ACLU has finally stepped out from behind the curtains of its former limousine liberals' club and started to take on important issues.

Good for San Diego ACLU for supporting PETA's right to pay for advertising to present its position on SeaWorld at the airport. San Diego ACLU is also supporting Barrio Logan's right to devise its own community plan and is mailing folks to vote Yes on Props B and C on June 3.

Also, ACLU national took on the NSA in a lawsuit after Wiki-leaks revelations of widespread governmental violations of citizen privacy via meta-data-gathering. Now there are some federal reforms in the works to prevent carte blanche privacy overreach by American spy agencies against the American public.

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Visduh May 22, 2014 @ 4:54 p.m.

You mention Props B and C. I've seen "No on B & C" signs in Vista and Escondido. Well, there may be San Diego city voters passing through No County, but the signs may represent more ignorance of the boundaries of the city of SD than anything intentional. And, yes, I know that the San Pasqual Valley is in San Diego, but I saw the sign up on the north side of Escondido. Vista is many miles from any part of SD.

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