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On Thursday, SeaWorld announced it is ending its controversial killer whale breeding program this year. The move, which was announced in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, follows years of mounting public backlash over the treatment of animals living in the company's parks.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby explained the company's decision in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times:
We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals. Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create—which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes. This year we will end all orca breeding programs—and because SeaWorld hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld's care.
The orcas currently in captivity at SeaWorld will live out the rest of their lives in the parks, despite pressure from animal rights activists to release them into the wild. Manby said on Thursday that such calls to release them were "not wise" and that if they were to do so, the whales would likely die.
For years, SeaWorld has been under intense scrutiny over the conditions killer whales are subjected to in its parks, conditions many animal rights activists describe as inhumane. The 2013 documentary Blackfish heightened those concerns.
In November, SeaWorld announced it was ending its popular killer whale show at its flagship park in San Diego.