In response to a California proposal banning orca performances at amusement parks, SeaWorld recruited an energy industry lobbyist with ties to BP North America.
The entertainment company with theme parks in California and Orlando hired Montgomery Consulting leader Pete Montgomery, former government affairs chief for BP North America as well as a past chief of staff for Santa Cruz State Sen. Bruce McPherson, writes Michael Gardner of U-T San Diego.
Scott Wetch, another high-profile lobbyist representing labor and wine industry interests, will also be a subcontractor. Wetch served as a top aide to former Democratic State Sen. Mike Thompson, who is now in Congress.
According to mandatory filings with the California Secretary of State, Montgomery defined SeaWorld’s lobbying plans as “general business issues — tourism and marketing issues, animal rights issues.”
Montgomery’s main responsibility is to convince legislators to scrap Assembly Bill 2140, introduced as a reprisal to the controversial CNN documentary “Blackfish.”
Blackfish examined the circumstances surrounding the 2010 death of Orlando SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who drowned after being pulled into the pool by the orca Tilikum.
“There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” said Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom when introducing the bill. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.”
The bill calls for an end to performing orcas in theme parks, banning the captive breeding and prohibiting the import and export of “killer” whales.
If passed, SeaWorld can continue putting whales on exhibit in aquarium-like settings, Gardner writes.
In response to the proposed legislation, the company issued this statement:
“SeaWorld, one of the world’s most respected zoological institutions, already operates under multiple federal, state and local animal welfare laws.
“In addition to being one of the most respected members of the business community, SeaWorld also is a global leader in the zoological and animal welfare world. We are deeply committed to the health and well-being of all of our animals and killer whales are no exception.
“Our passionate employees are the true animal advocates – the pioneering scientists, researchers, veterinarians, trainers, marine biologists, educators, aquarists, aviculturists and conservationists who for 50 years have cared for the animals at SeaWorld and also saved thousands in the wild that are injured, ill or orphaned.
“We engage in business practices that are responsible, sustainable and reflective of the balanced values all Americans share.”