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ACLU Sues Over Rejection Of Anti-SeaWorld Ad At San Diego Airport; PETA Joins Suit

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced Tuesday that it joined the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties in suing the operator of San Diego International Airport over its refusal of an advertisement urging visitors to avoid SeaWorld.

PETA and the ACLU contend that advertisements for nonprofits and SeaWorld San Diego are allowed at Lindbergh Field, making the rejection of the animal rights group's message discriminatory.


Actress Kathy Najimy is shown in a PETA ad urging San Diego visitors to not visit SeaWorld.

The ad, valued at $17,500, features actress Kathy Najimy welcoming travelers to San Diego and urging them to stay away from the theme park if they love animals.

SeaWorld has long been a PETA target over alleged abuse of killer whales featured in its signature "Shamu" shows. The group organizes frequent protests outside the park's gates.

Last week, an assemblyman from Santa Monica introduced legislation that would ban such exhibitions.

The county airport authority operates Lindbergh Field, but a private firm, JCDecaux, handles advertising.

"While the government has some authority to regulate advertising, this is an example of the government abusing that authority and unfairly discriminating against the message of a specific advertiser," said Sean Riordan, ACLU senior staff attorney. "The First Amendment stands to protect against this kind of viewpoint discrimination."

Najimy, who grew up in San Diego, said her parents took her to SeaWorld when she was young, when "we didn't know better."

The actress, known for her roles in "Sister Act" and the HBO television program "VEEP," said tourists should instead go to Balboa Park, the Old Globe or "get naked at Black's Beach."

SeaWorld denies PETA's allegations of mistreatment. The airport authority declined to comment on pending litigation.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 11, 2014 at 10:22 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I have some international travel coming up for work and my company allows me to fly out of either SD or LA.

I was looking forward to utilizing some of the new international flights Lindbergh has acquired, but learning about their discriminatory behavior regarding this advertising, I will choose to fly out of LAX even though it's a pain.

I hope the ACLU and PETA prevails in this lawsuit.

Lindbergh field has lost my business, even when it's going to be inconvenient.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 12, 2014 at 10:04 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Mayor Faulconer and City Council Chairman Gloria have both cowardly and greedily voiced support for SeaWorld and opposition for the bill to stop the orca circus shows.

Now, we see our airport putting money and filthy greed ahead of animal rights as well.

San Diego needs to get with the program. Just because orca shows have generated billions for SeaWorld over the past few decades does not mean it's a sustainable business model for the future.

Times are changing, and people look at circuses and their treatment of animals differently than they have in the past.

What idiots like Faulconer, Gloria, the Pravda UT "news"paper and local airport officials fail to realize in their political haze is that being associated with a controversial organization like SeaWorld can actually start becoming a liability, as opposed to a profit source.

When is this backwards CowTown going to realize it's not 1985 anymore?

Let's not forget that earlier this year, knowing full well about the controversy with Blackfish, San Diego's tourism marketing maroons spent millions of our tax payer money on ads to bring people to San Diego.

What did these inept people feature in their ad?? SEA WORLD.

Nevermind the fact that San Diego has many niche and lesser known attractions - a thriving craft beer industry, a thriving local music scene, arts districts like North Park, an increasingly diverse food scene, etc.

But our completely horrid city leaders and local media insist on continuing to market to the family who shoves the kids in the car, drives in from Arizona to go to SeaWorld and the Zoo, and stays at motel 6 and eats at Taco Bell. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but that is not who brings money to San Diego.

It's the convention-goers who stay at nicer hotels, the people who come for cultural offerings like ComicCon and people who come to do things other than visit circuses.

I see national advertisements all the time for cities in places like Michigan and Kansas trying to brand themselves as higher-end sophisticated destinations to bring in tourists who actually spend money.

San Diego has more to offer than most of these places, but we market ourselves as a SeaWorld destination and a place more geared for 10 year olds.

Why are we even expanding the convention center? Maybe we should just level it and turn it into a petting zoo since that's the demographic our failing city leaders market to.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 12, 2014 at 10:04 a.m. ― 3 years ago


My whole point here is this: I've pretty much given up on local officials and the local media taking any kind of stances that are morally correct when it comes to SeaWorld and animal rights in general. But what about the economic choices they are making? Is SeaWorld really how we see our future? Does San Diego really think we can host the Olympics or become the worlds premier biotech hub when our city is geared to children's circuses and an image of immaturity and blandness?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | March 13, 2014 at 2:25 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Well said Duck!

SeaWorld must give in as all this negative press is certainly hurting their profits. And it is only going to grow and get louder.

Even being associated with SeaWorld is becoming a liability. Just ask our airport.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 13, 2014 at 3:29 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I bought 6 world passes for my family and myself to show my support, just as I eat at chik-fil-a once a week to give good businesses my support.

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