SeaWorld strikes back against protesters' claims - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

SeaWorld strikes back against protesters' claims

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - SeaWorld San Diego was targeted once again by protestors Sunday.

Dozens of people gathered near the theme park -- demonstrating to bring attention to the treatment of marine animals at SeaWorld.

People visiting SeaWorld Sunday were greeted with signs criticizing the park as nearly 200 protesters, including children, lined up outside the entrance.

"I would like to let the whales go."

Gabriel stood alongside his mom, who says she used to take him to SeaWorld. That is, until she realized what she claims is animal cruelty going on.

"My first thought of going there was that I was teaching him about marine life, but as I was there watching what was happening...something just didn't feel right," Angela Gerson said.

While protests have been happening here for years, activists say they're gaining momentum thanks to the documentary 'Blackfish.'

Released in October, it questions park operations and examines the 2009 death of a trainer in Orlando.

"The movie Blackfish has opened the eyes of many all around the world and SeaWorld is desperately trying to save their image, which is not happening," protest organizer Ellen Ericksen said.

Sunday's protest didn't end at SeaWorld, many people showed up at Lindbergh Field to speak out against Southwest Airlines, who promotes the park on its planes.

Stephanie Payne passed out flyers to travelers as others once again used signs to voice their concerns.

"The public doesn't know, so it's our job to inform them," Heather Heffernan said.

SeaWorld, meanwhile is firing back. On its Twitter page, several tweets were posted throughout the day encouraging followers to get the facts.

In a statement released to CBS News 8 a spokesperson said, "The protesters' claims and accusations are, as they have always been, without merit. There is no organization more passionately committed to the physical, mental and social care and well-being of animals than SeaWorld. The real advocates for animals are the trainers, aviculturists, animal-care staff and veterinarians at SeaWorld.  To give this event some perspective, we've estimated only a few hundred protesters, however, we anticipate that more 17,000 people will visit SeaWorld today to enjoy all our park has to offer and be inspired by our animals."

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