Thanks­giv­ing con­tro­versy?

Sea World float draws fire for mis­treat­ment of whales

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY VER­ENA DOB­NIK

MNEW YORK acy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade is awash in an­i­mal-re­lated protests over its floats, with con­tro­ver­sies in­volv­ing the un­likely pair­ing of rocker Joan Jett and Shamu the killer whale. Ac­tivists plan to line the route of next week’s pa­rade to protest a SeaWorld float af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions in a new doc­u­men­tary that the theme parks treat whales badly. And ranch­ers suc­ceeded in get­ting Miss Jett pulled off the South Dakota tourism float af­ter they ques­tioned why the veg­e­tar­ian and an­i­mal-rights ally was rep­re­sent­ing their beef-lov­ing state.

The float flaps threaten to shake Macy’s tra­di­tional po­si­tion of stay­ing out of pol­i­tics and soar­ing silently above the fray, like the mas­sive bal­loons of Snoopy, Ker­mit the Frog and Sponge­Bob SquarePants.

“The pa­rade has never taken on, pro­moted or oth­er­wise en­gaged in so­cial com­men­tary, po­lit­i­cal de­bate or other forms of ad­vo­cacy,” Cincin­nati-based Macy’s Inc. said in a state­ment this week.

It was in that spirit that pa­rade ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Amy Kule said Tues­day that the SeaWorld float is stay­ing. “There is no con­tro­versy,” she said. “Our goal is to en­ter­tain, and that is their goal as well.”

The SeaWorld float, which de­picts rolling waves, trop­i­cal fish, pen­guins and Shamu, comes months af­ter the re­lease of the doc­u­men­tary “Black­fish,” which con­tends that SeaWorld’s poor treat­ment of its killer whales con­trib­uted to the ag­gres­sion of a whale in­volved in a trainer’s death.

SeaWorld says the ac­cu­sa­tions have “ab­so­lutely no ba­sis” and that “the men and women who care for th­ese an­i­mals at SeaWorld are ded­i­cated in ev­ery re­spect to their health and well-be­ing.”

Ac­tivists, in­clud­ing mem­bers of Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals, say they plan to stage a protest some­where along the route dur­ing next week’s pa­rade. And the group says it has sent Macy’s more than 80,000 emails from an­i­mal lovers de­mand­ing that the store drop the float.

Among those join­ing in was ac­tor Alec Bald­win and his wife, Hi­laria, who wrote last week that SeaWorld was a “cruel prison for whales” and that the parks “should not be cel­e­brated with a gi­ant Shamu float parad­ing down 34th Street.”

Ken­neth Sher­rill, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Man­hat­tan’s Hunter Col­lege and a long­time pa­rade watcher, says the SeaWorld con­tro­versy puts Macy’s in a tough spot.

“It’s damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” Mr. Sher­rill said. “Macy’s is mak­ing a state­ment. If there’s a po­lit­i­cal con­flict, say­ing ‘I’m not get­ting in­volved’ means you’re sup­port­ing the sta­tus quo.”

PETA also is con­nected to the float con­tro­versy in­volv­ing Miss Jett, an an­i­mal-rights veg­e­tar­ian who works with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

She was sched­uled to sing atop South Dakota’s tourism float un­til an outcry from the South Dakota Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, which said it made no sense to fea­ture an artist who is crit­i­cal of the state’s top eco­nomic sec­tor.

Macy’s found a so­lu­tion: The “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” singer and her Black­hearts band are be­ing moved to a dif­fer­ent float yet to be an­nounced.

A pa­rade spokesman said it made the move so at­ten­tion isn’t di­verted from the “en­ter­tain­ment mis­sion” of the event, which also fea­tures Car­rie Un­der­wood, Jimmy Fal­lon, the Ra­dio City Rock­ettes and the cast mem­bers of the re­al­ity show “Duck Dy­nasty.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple view Seaworld’s A Sea of Sur­prises float dur­ing a pre­view of new Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade floats.

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