On Wednesday, SeaWorld held its annual meeting in an online forum that allowed shareholders to submit questions for Joel Manby, the company’s new CEO, and other board members.
The nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which owns stock in SeaWorld, recruited Slater to ask when the company would retire its captive killer whales to coastal sanctuaries. Slater is an 11-time World Surf League Champion and arguably the most famous surfer in the world.
“He has seen firsthand the beauty, intelligence, and personalities of these animals,” said PETA’s Stephanie Shaw, “and he’s profoundly touched by their imprisonment at SeaWorld.”
Slater waited patiently for his question about retiring the company’s killer whales to be posted to the online forum. It never happened.
“We tried several ways to send the question in, but they never responded,” Shaw said. SeaWorld officials countered to Forbes magazine that they never received Slater’s question.
SeaWorld did not respond to TakePart’s requests to access the online meeting or for comment on Slater’s question.
Whether intentional or not, SeaWorld’s failure to address Slater’s question during the meeting may have only increased public attention on the firm and its killer whale practices, because later that day the surfer took it directly to his 1.5 million Facebook followers.
“The veil has been lifted on SeaWorld,” he wrote. “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.”
Slater noted SeaWorld’s declining attendance and revenue and mentioned that companies such as Southwest Airlines, Panama Jack, and Mattel recently severed their corporate ties with SeaWorld.