SeaWorld critics, ramping up their campaign on behalf of captive killer whales, are rolling out a “virtual reality experience” for their series of San Diego — and national — protests.
Coordinating the “I, Orca” tour is Alex Blount, a 26-year-old University of Arizona graduate. He says the tour will hit spots in California, Florida and Texas — all home to SeaWorld parks.
Blount was interviewed by email.
Times of San Diego: Has PETA ever done this kind of series in San Diego before? Why these dates and places?
Alex Blount: The “I, Orca” virtual reality tour will break new ground for PETA. This will be the first time that “I, Orca” will be in San Diego, the home of SeaWorld. PETA hopes to engage with locals, tourists and anyone who plans to go to SeaWorld. This experience was developed to help build empathy for marine animals at SeaWorld and other abusive “amusement” parks. Studies have shown that virtual reality experiences can affect the way that people behave in the real world.
What kind of turnouts are expected? Local or visitors?
PETA hopes to reach locals and tourists as they make or carry out their summer plans. By using the Google Cardboard headset, we can put the virtual reality experience right in people’s hands. We want people to experience firsthand both the joy and freedom of being a wild orca swimming in the ocean and also the despair of having a loved one be ripped away, only to be used as a tourist attraction.
Whose idea was it to stage protests sometimes miles from SeaWorld?
PETA would like to reach as broad an audience as possible. The “I, Orca” virtual reality experience is an innovative and approachable way to get people thinking about the fact that orcas in the wild swim up to 100 miles a day and dive to depths of up to 1,000 feet. At SeaWorld, orcas are kept in tiny tanks, are often grouped incompatibly, and sustain broken teeth and chronic pain from chewing on the gates and sides of their tanks.
PETA is asking people to shun SeaWorld and all other marine-mammal parks. We urge SeaWorld to move orcas, dolphins, seals, sea lions and other marine mammals to coastal sanctuaries where they would be able to live out their lives in a larger and much more natural environment. Moving the animals may make it possible for them to communicate and reconnect with the family members they were torn away from decades ago.
The sad fact is that SeaWorld will tear children away from their mothers forever and ship them across the world if it improves the corporation’s bottom line. But consumers are more aware than ever that SeaWorld’s artificial environment is harmful to complex, sensitive animals such as orcas, and according to a recent nationwide poll, three out of four Americans oppose keeping orcas in captivity for public display.
Is PETA planning similar actions in San Antonio and Orlando — or anywhere else?
We’ll be visiting Los Angeles, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami Beach, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin.
Anything else readers should know about these actions?
The “I, Orca” virtual reality experience was developed to help build empathy for marine animals at SeaWorld and other abusive “amusement” parks. These animals are kept in tanks that are a tiny fraction of the size of their natural ocean habitats. To orcas, it’s the equivalent of being confined to a bathtub for decades without end. SeaWorld gives these animals psychotropic drugs in an attempt to address abnormal types of behavior caused by the stress, anxiety, and boredom of their confinement. You can find more information that SeaWorld doesn’t want the public to see at SeaWorldOfHurt.com.
A virtual reality participant wearing a Google Cardboard headset will be placed in the position of a young orca swimming with his or her pod. During the experience, the orca will head toward an artistic representation of SeaWorld to investigate the call of a distressed orca. Edie Falco, of “Nurse Jackie” and “The Sopranos,” lends her voice to a mother orca whose child was torn away for the sake of SeaWorld’s profits.
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