Protest held outside SeaWorld San Diego

Protest comes in the wake of release of 'Blackfish

SAN DIEGO - About 150 people taking part in a worldwide protest of the captivity of killer whales picketed outside the SeaWorld San Diego theme park on Saturday.

Picketers, part of the "Empty The Tanks" movement, held demonstrations throughout the world at aquatic theme parks including Australia, Japan, Texas, Florida and SeaWorld San Diego at 500 Sea World Drive.

"The protesters' claims and accusations are without merit," SeaWorld San Diego's communications director Dave Koontz said. "There is no organization more passionately committed to the physical, mental and social care and well-being of animals than SeaWorld. The real advocates for animals are the trainers, aviculturists, animal care staff and veterinarians at SeaWorld."

The worldwide protest comes in the wake of "Blackfish," a recently released film that alleges SeaWorld mistreats its killer whales.

"We must let SeaWorld and all captive facilities know that we will not stop being a voice for these precious creatures who have lost their right to freedom, their right to live a natural life, and are now imprisoned, artificially inseminated and forced to perform 'tricks' for food, all for human entertainment," Ellen Ericksen, the local spokeswoman for Empty the Tanks said Friday in a prepared statement.

Koontz said the protest of the park took place without incident. He said more than 30,000 visitors were expected Saturday at SeaWorld San Diego.

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