Slater Tries To Stand Up To SeaWorld

The 11-Time World Champ speaks out on behalf of PETA, but SeaWorld won't listen

Kelly Slater at Haleiwa last winter on one of his orca-inspired crafts, painted by artist Kevin Ancell to raise awareness of their mistreatment at the hands of places like SeaWorld. Photo: Glaser
Kelly Slater at Haleiwa last winter on one of his orca-inspired crafts, painted by artist Kevin Ancell to raise awareness of orca mistreatment at the hands of places like SeaWorld. Photo: Glaser

In an attempt to confront SeaWorld about their treatment of orcas, Kelly Slater joined forces with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) so he could submit a question during SeaWorld’s annual online shareholders meeting Wednesday. PETA has a practice of buying the minimum amount of stock needed in companies it labels animal abusers so they can participate in these annual shareholder meetings. Serving as PETA’s proxy, Slater’s end-goal was to influence change in company policy and request the release of orcas that have been captive for 40 years or longer. However, the plan was stopped in its tracks when SeaWorld’s meeting organizers barred Slater from submitting the question.

“The forum was not accepting it…I know that others were accepted,” said David Perle, PETA’s senior media director. Last year, in a similar online forum, actress Jessica Biel spoke on behalf of PETA and her statement went through without a hitch. SeaWorld, however, claimed they never received Slater’s question, and defended that their scheduled online Q&A was working just fine. Slater was attempting to connect with them from Fiji, which isn’t a friendly place for online correspondence, but there’s so far been no concrete explanation for the silencing of Slater either way.

Whether he was ignored accidentally or intentionally, here’s what he wanted to say:

My name is Kelly Slater, and I’m here on behalf of PETA. The veil has been lifted on SeaWorld. All the ads in the world won’t change what the public now knows to be true: that the company imprisons highly intelligent, emotionally complex, social animals in tiny, barren concrete tanks, which leads to aggression and disease.

SeaWorld is experiencing declining attendance and revenue, and dozens of companies, including Southwest Airlines, Panama Jack, and Mattel, have recently ended partnerships with SeaWorld.

As a professional surfer, I’m lucky and privileged to be able to spend the majority of my time in the ocean – it’s the place where I feel most at home, and thus, I feel an obligation to protect that which I have a voice in influencing.

Please, tell us, when will SeaWorld allow the animals it holds captive to return to their home – the ocean – by retiring them to a seaside sanctuary? And wouldn’t this at least be viewed, if nothing else, as a public relations win for you?

By righting the wrongs you have committed in the name of corporate profit for so many years, you may actually be able to recoup some of the respect that has been lost in the eyes of the public and work toward an end to the problem of animal suffering. Thank you.

This recent jaunt of orca activism from the 11-Time World Champ should come as no surprise. After watching the notorious Blackfish documentary, Slater took to social media to air his opinion on the matter, his support of orca freedom instead of SeaWorld captivity. Slater painted his entire Hawaii quiver for the 2014 Triple Crown with orca-inspired art, and had plans to auction off some of the boards to raise money for the cause. Slater has continued to deck his boards out with similar designs since. Despite being ignored by SeaWorld this time around, Slater remains relentless in the use of his voice and celebrity to stand up against the mistreatment of orcas.