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PETA flies over SeaWorld seeking freedom for marine mammals

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals flew a banner over SeaWorld in San Diego Tuesday calling on the theme park to end the confinement of marine mammals.

The banner, which was flown over the Mission Bay park from noon to 2 p.m., read “SeaWorld: Let Whales and Dolphins Out of Prison. PETA,” said Amanda Fortino, a spokeswoman for the animal rights group.

Similar banners were flown over the Orlando SeaWorld Tuesday and the San Antonio location on Saturday.

In a statement, SeaWorld officials called PETA’s protest a “publicity stunt” and labeled the group an “extremist organization.”

“We can’t help but wonder how many animals in need could have been helped with the thousands of dollars spent on PETA’s latest exercise in theatrics,” the statement read.

“This is just another in a long line of publicity stunts that once again proves that PETA is an extremist organization far more interested in photo opportunities than helping animals.”

Fortino said PETA wants SeaWorld to end marine mammal shows and establish coastal sanctuaries for the animals.

The protest came in the wake of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was dragged underwater by an orca named Tilikum during a show at the Orlando SeaWorld late last month.

Fortino said killer whales shouldn’t be confined in a “bathtub” and asked to do “silly tricks.”

“It’s not surprising when these huge, smart animals lash out,” Fortino said.

SeaWorld officials said they reject every charge made by PETA.

“They are not and have never been a credible source of information related to the display of marine mammals or the care of animals in a zoological facility like SeaWorld,” the park’s statement says.

“Our parks will continue to do what they have always done: bring marine animals to our guests in ways that are enriching, inspiring, educational and entertaining.’”