ACLU: Airport officials allows anti-SeaWorld ad at Lindbergh Field

During a night performance at Shamu Stadium, trainers direct orcas. Critics are demanding an end to keeping the animals captive for entertainment.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with a lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority agreed to allow PETA’s anti-SeaWorld advertisement to be displayed at Lindbergh Field, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday.

PETA had sought to buy space at the airport terminal for an ad featuring actress Kathy Najimy (“Sister Act,” “Hocus Pocus”) asking visitors to avoid SeaWorld “if you like animals like I do.”

“Nothing is more fundamental to the 1st Amendment than the principle that government may not silence speech because of its viewpoint,” said David Loy, legal director at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, which backed PETA in its lawsuit.


In response to the decision, SeaWorld San Diego said that “PETA is an extremist organization and this ad demonstrates that, once again, they are more interested in publicity stunts than helping animals. The truth is that our animals at SeaWorld are healthy and happy.”

The walls at the airport terminal are replete with advertisements suggesting that tourists visit vacation spots like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.

But the airport’s advertising vendor refused PETA’s bid to buy space for $17,500 for its anti-SeaWorld message.

The animal rights group has led protests against SeaWorld in the wake of the documentary “Blackfish,” alleging that the marine park mistreats its orcas.

PETA also supports legislation pending in Sacramento that would ban orca shows at SeaWorld and prohibit captive breeding of the animals, also known as killer whales.

In a statement released by PETA, Najimy suggested that people avoid SeaWorld and instead visit Balboa Park, The Old Globe theater, or “get naked at Black’s Beach and hope you see a whale in her natural, compassionate, safe home.”

The ad was put up Tuesday and will remain for four weeks.