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'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert
Country music legend and animal welfare activist Willie Nelson has canceled his performance at SeaWorld Orlando’s Bands, Brew & BBQ Fest, which Nelson and his group were to kick off on Feb. 1, 2014.
Nelson confirmed the cancellation Friday afternoon during a live telephone interview with Brooke Baldwin on CNN—marking the second musical act to recently back out of entertainment engagements at one of its aquarium parks. Despite SeaWorld’s claim of a “scheduling conflict,” Nelson said that it was his friends and fans who led him to the cancellation.
“I had a lot of calls from people asking me to cancel, and I understand there’s petitions going around, and you know, I just had to cancel,” Nelson told Baldwin.
Even his own great-granddaughter gathered 250 signatures from “people she knew asking me not to play the venue,” he said. “And also, I don’t agree with the way they treat their animals, so it wasn’t that hard a deal to just cancel.”
SeaWorld did not return email or telephone requests for comment.
Sources tell me that a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort was undertaken to reach out to Nelson with information on killer whales in captivity, especially in light of Barenaked Ladies’ cancellation last week and the October premiere on CNN of the anti-captivity documentary Blackfish.
The popular Canadian group canceled its Feb. 15 gig at SeaWorld after drummer Tyler Stewart watched Blackfish and was reportedly rattled by what he saw.
"We've talked things over and decided not to play at SeaWorld at this time," the band wrote on its Facebook page. "This is a complicated issue, and we don't claim to understand all of it, but we don't feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time. The SeaWorld folks have been gracious and extended us invitations to the park to learn more about what they do, and how they do it. It's not about money, or petitions, or press…but it is about our fans. We listen to them, and they're important to us."
The cancellation of two marquee acts is just one more blow to SeaWorld, which, it is fair to say, has had better years. Attendance in the first nine months was down by 1 million visitors compared with the same period last year.
Then there was the robust reaction to Blackfish. According to Nielsen fast national data, among the youngest viewers (ages 18–34), CNN wiped out the competition on the day the documentary premiered, with 471,000 people in this group tuning in—more than eight times the combined number for Fox (31,000) and MSNBC (25,000). Online activity was also vigorous. “Blackfish ranked #1 in page views among all CNN films this year,” according to the press release.
"I am thrilled that yet another world-famous, socially conscious artist has chosen to cancel his SeaWorld performance,” says Samantha Berg, a former SeaWorld trainer featured in Blackfish. “Mr. Nelson's decision sends a powerful message that the exploitation of whales and dolphins for human entertainment is unacceptable and that it's time for SeaWorld and other marine parks and aquariums to do the right thing and end the shows.”
When asked if there was “anything SeaWorld could say or do” to change his mind, Nelson said no way. “I don’t want to play there,” he said, “and that’s just the end of the story.”
For now, SeaWorld Orlando’s Bands, Brew & BBQ Fest has a rather anemic lineup. Booking major acts at the park, whether in February 2014 or any time after that, will likely become difficult as public pressure is brought to bear on potential performers.
That could hurt SeaWorld’s already tarnished reputation, not to mention its bottom line.
7 Things About Wild Killer Whales You'll Never Learn at SeaWorld
Killer Whales are among the most intelligent species in the world, making them particularly unsuitable to captivity.
(One of the things I have noticed is that the majority of the killer whales in captivity shown in photos all have deformed dorsal fins.
Isn't it time we stop keeping intelligent, sentient, wide ranging marine mammals such as Dolphins and Orcas in captivity just for
our entertainment and profit for corporations?
We don't OWN these magnificent creatures and no-one should be able to, including Sea World and Yes, even our own Coral World with their plans of breeding even more dolphins for dismal, sterile lives in capitivity.)
Thank you for joining together to let Martina McBride know that it was important to cancel her performance at SeaWorld. She declared on facebook that she has decided to do just that! Congratulations, everyone and lets keep fighting until all animals in captivity are free to live their natural lives!
This message was sent by Rochelle Corey using the Change.org system. You received this email because you signed a petition started by Rochelle Corey on Change.org: "Martina McBride: Don't play at SeaWorld."
i have seen blackfish and i feel bad for the whales and other creatures that perform. but as we stand here and now what would be your solution to fix this. you obviously can not now release them into the wild as they are so used to getting handouts to survive. would this be a gradual reduction in handouts from the owners?
what should be done from here on out
with all of the stars pulling out. i had a question. if people actually stop going to these places that means no money coming in which means they will not have money to feed the creatures? right. oh, and unemployed people
these creatures for the most part have been held in captivity for years, would they even know what to do in the wild if they were to become free?
while it is fine to think that these places are bad, has anyone thought of the long term consequences of basically boycotting them is?
This is what they are boycotting....
The Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to funding and promoting independent marine research projects. Through research and rescue activities, the Foundation aims to help build our knowledge and appreciation of the wondrous variety of life in our oceans.
The Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc (SWRRFI) has been a major benefactor of marine research in Australia since incorporation in 1991.
The Foundation seeks to encourage and assist marine sciences and to date has supported over 120 research projects relating to aspects of the biology of marine vertebrates and considers applications from both the private and public sectors.
Sea World's pioneering work in marine animal rescues has resulted in outstanding success in saving many sick, injured and stranded animals in the wild.
A team of highly skilled staff, headed by Director of Marine Sciences, Trevor Long, are on call 24 hours each and every day with resources and specialized equipment to ensure rescue operations can be initiated quickly and efficiently.
The costs of involving boats, helicopters and staff in long and difficult rescue operations can be enormous but these are entirely funded by Sea World.
Every time Sea World is involved in a rescue, an enormous contribution is made to public awareness and scientific knowledge. This program incorporates the rehabilitation of birds, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins and whales and helps Australian scientists with their research into marine life.