PETA plans to protest at the home of new SeaWorld CEO

SeaWorld chief executive began his new job April 7, and he's already getting heat from PETA

Less than two weeks after taking on the post of chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., Joel Manby can expect a harsh welcome from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The animal rights group, which has been criticizing SeaWorld's treatment of trained killer whales, plans a protest in front of Manby's Georgia home Saturday.

The group plans to carry signs that say, "Joel Manby Runs Orca Prisons" and "The World Is Watching: Release Orcas to Sanctuaries."

SeaWorld called PETA's planned protest a "new low" for the animal rights group, saying it should instead spend time trying to rescue and rehabilitate animals.

"It is what our team will be focused on while PETA continues to generate publicity for themselves," SeaWorld said in a statement.

PETA has increased its pressure on SeaWorld since the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which alleges that the marine theme parks in Florida and San Diego abuse and neglect killer whales.

SeaWorld initially dismissed the criticism until attendance numbers at SeaWorld's parks began to drop last year. The company has since announced plans to nearly double the size of the tanks that hold the orcas in SeaWorld San Diego and invest $10 million in matching funds to research threats to killer whales in the wild.

Manby was named to replace the previous chief executive, Jim Atchison, who resigned in December. Manby, who began the job April 7, was most recently chief executive of Atlanta-based Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., which owns the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee and the Harlem Gobetrotters basketball team, among other businesses.

But SeaWorld's efforts have not appeased PETA.

"Now that the public knows how the orcas at SeaWorld are drugged, separated from their families, and deprived of everything that's natural to them, SeaWorld is running low on credibility and ticket-buyers," PETA campaign specialist Ashley Byrne said in a statement. "PETA is reminding Joel Manby that his first priority should be to move the orcas to coastal sanctuaries, where they could finally live a more natural life."

To bring attention to the issue, PETA protesters were arrested on New Year's Day for trying to block SeaWorld's float at the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena.

But it was one of the more subdued protests by PETA supporters, who have posed in public in the nude, in plastic wrap, wearing pig masks, in cages and covered in fake blood. 

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