The San Diego International Airport is now displaying an animal rights ad urging tourists to avoid SeaWorld. But is it really having an impact on travelers?
The ad – displayed in the baggage claim area of in the eastern side of Terminal Two – was created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and went up this week with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU).
It features actress and activist Kathy Najimy, a San Diego native, and the words: “Welcome to San Diego! If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld.”
NBC 7 spoke with a few travelers Thursday about the ad and many seemed to have mixed reactions.
Jayne Miller said it’ll likely hit hard with animal lovers.
“I think if you're an animal lover, it’s going to resonate with you because nobody wants to see the animals mistreated at all costs, so I think it may raise awareness,” Miller said.
El Cajon resident Jason Talia said he’s not a fan of the advertisement.
“I don't really agree with it. SeaWorld has been a part of our city for such a long time, and I just think it's wrong, overall,” said Talia. “In my honest opinion, I think PETA just put it up for a publicity stunt.”
The ad will be up for four weeks, at a cost of $17,500. It was originally rejected by the airport’s ad agency because, according to PETA, the ad didn’t meet the agency’s requirements.
The Airport Authority said they did not directly reject the ad, rather it was rejected by their advertising vendor.
That’s when PETA sued the ad agency and the ACLU stepped in. On April 30, airport regulators agreed to settle the lawsuit by permitting the ad to be posted for a month in a terminal. In the process, the airport paid back $31,086 in legal fees.
PETA opposes the SeaWorld’s use of captive killer whales. The organization believes the ad should be seen by all.
“There's nothing objectionable about this unless the truth offends you. Unless a message of compassion offends you. To us, it was a very clear freedom of speech case,” Lindsay Rajt of PETA told NBC 7.
After the ACLU stepped in, a legal battle was settled out of court, allowing PETA to put up the ad. And the organization is already calling it a success.
“We've got people talking about the issue and sometimes that’s half the battle, just getting people to consider that there's another viewpoint beyond the glossy SeaWorld fliers,” added Rajt.
But the advertisement confuses some travelers.
“That makes no sense, why would you avoid SeaWorld if you love animals?” said Pat Smergy, visiting from Dallas.
When asked if the ad would keep her away from SeaWorld, traveler Christina Semple admitted she was on the fence.
“It would definitely make me think about it. I think it would [keep me away]. I think it would,” said Semple.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld issued this statement, in part, to NBC 7 regarding the ad:
"While PETA is engaged in its airport publicity stunt, our rescue team has already rescued over a 165 animals this year. When there's an animal in need, it's SeaWorld that the public calls, not PETA."
In a separate statement released Wednesday, SeaWorld said its animals are “healthy and happy” and added, “We are dedicated to their well-being. There is no organization more passionately committed to the physical, mental and social care and well-being of animals than SeaWorld, and the real advocates for animals are our trainers, aviculturists, animal-care staff and veterinarians."