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PETA urges SeaWorld to send its animals to 'seaside sanctuaries'

PETA urges SeaWorld to send its animals to 'seaside sanctuaries'
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants SeaWorld San Diego to send its marine animals to “seaside sanctuaries.” Above, an orca performs at the park. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

SeaWorld may have announced last month that it is phasing out captive orcas for public display, but the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the theme park to go even further and send its marine animals to "seaside sanctuaries."

But at a Wednesday news conference in San Diego, PETA officials did not offer specifics about who would run the sanctuaries, how much they would cost or how big they would be.

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"At this point it's impossible to know until the plan comes through — when you know how many animals will be released, where these sanctuaries are going to be, but it's do-able," said Lisa Lange, PETA's senior vice president of communications.

A seaside sanctuary was used to reintroduce Keiko, the orca made famous in the "Free Willy" movie, from captivity to its home waters before it died in 2003.

But SeaWorld officials said in a statement that the discussion is a non-starter. Given the ages of the animals, the length of time they've spent with humans and the relationships they've formed with other whales, SeaWorld said transporting the orcas to sea pens would do more harm than good.

The Humane Society of the United States worked with SeaWorld to adopt its new policy this year.

The organization's president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, said he would have to wait to hear details before passing judgment.

"It is not an easy thing to contemplate," he said.

Nikolewski writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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