Raining on SeaWorld’s Parade: PETA’s Direct Action and Public Interest Communication
PETA is well known for creative animal rights activism, with studies exploring how its text-based advocacy creates change regarding societal treatment of animals. What is less explored is how PETA uses on the ground direct action strategies as public interest communications (PIC). For PIC scholars, these strategies are relevant, as direct action provides communicators with experiential ways to persuade stakeholders of new perspectives to push for social change. Building on previous studies in public relations activism and PIC, this essay argues that PETA’s direct-action strategies complement its text-based advocacy by shaping stakeholder perception through encounters with material realities, specifically by using embodied forms of persuasion. Answering how public interest communicators create effective persuasive messages on the ground is crucial in understanding contemporary social change.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. text revision). Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychological Association. (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: Author.
Atkins-Sayre, W. (2010). Articulating identity: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the animal/human divide. Western Journal of Communication, 74, 309–328. doi:10.1080/10570311003767183
Benecke, D. R., & Oksiutycz, A. (2015). Changing conversation and dialogue through LeadSA: An example of public relations activism in South Africa. Public Relations Review, 41, 816-824. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.06.003
Biesecker, B. A., & Lucaites, J. L. (Eds.). (2009). Rhetoric, materiality, and politics. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Blair, C. (1999). Contemporary U.S. memorial sites as exemplars of rhetoric’s materiality. In J. Selzer & S. Crowley (Eds.). Rhetorical bodies (pp. 16–57). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Bomey, N. (2018, February 27). SeaWorld CEO suddenly out as theme park attendance wanes. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/02/27/seaworld-ceo-joel-manby/376136002/
Boyd, J. & VanSlette, S. H. (2009). Outlaw discourse as postmodern public relations. In R.L. Heath, E.L Toth, & D. Waymer, D. (Eds.), Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II (pp. 328–342.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Brunner, B. (2017). Community, engagement, and democracy: Re-envisioning public relations and public interest communications through civic professionalism. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), 45-56. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1.p45
Burke, K. (1931). Counterstatement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Butterworth, M. L. (2008). “Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible”: Katie Hnida, body rhetoric, and football at the University of Colorado. Communication Studies, 59(3), 259-273. doi:10.1080/10510970802257705
Cadwalladr, C. (2013, March 30). Peta's Ingrid Newkirk: Making the fury fly. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/31/peta-ingrid-newkirk-making-fur-fly
Campbell, K. K. & Burkholder, T. R. (1997). Critiques of contemporary rhetoric. New York, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Chattoo, C. B. (2017). Anatomy of ‘The Blackfish Effect.’ Huffington Post. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/caty-borum-chattoo/anatomy-of-the-Blackfish-_b_9511932.html
Christiano, A. (2017). Foreword: Building the field of public interest communications. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), 4-15. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1.p4
Cisneros, J. (2008). (Re)Making the immigrant body: Rhetoric, materiality, and social protest in 'La Gran Marcha' of March 25, 2006. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, 94th Annual Convention, San Diego, CA.
Condit, C. (1990). Defending abortion rhetoric: Communication social change. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Crable, R. E. & Vibbert, S. L. (1985). Managing issues and influencing public policy. Public Relations Review, 11, 3–16.
DeLuca, K. (1999a). Image politics: The new rhetoric of environmental activism. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
DeLuca, K. (1999b). Unruly arguments: The body rhetoric of EarthFirst!, Act Up, and Queer Nation. Argumentation and Advocacy, 36, 9-21. doi:10.1080/00028533.1999.11951634
DeLuca, K., Lawson, S. & Sun, Y. (2012). Occupy Wall Street on the public screens of social media: Many framings of the birth of a protest movement. Communication, Culture & Critique, 5, 483–509. doi:10.1111/j.1753-9137.2012.01141.x
Downes, E. (2017). “Doing Good” scholarship: Considerations for building positive social change through the emerging field of public interest communications. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), 31-44. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1.p31
Duhon, S., Ellison, K. & Ragas, M. (2016). A whale of a problem: A strategic communication analysis of SeaWorld Entertainment’s multi-year Blackfish crisis. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 5, 3–37.
Edwards, L. (2018). Framing, rhetoric and culture jamming in public relations. Public Relations Inquiry, 7(2), 107-109. doi:10.1177/2046147X18775139
Fenske, M. (2016). Performing publics. Review of Communication, 16, 98-100. doi:10.1080/15358593.2016.1183908
Fessmann, J. (2017). Conceptual foundations of public interest communications. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), 16-30. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1.p16
Flood, M. (2017). The Wiz Live! and body rhetoric: The complexity of increasing diversity in a whitewashed entertainment industry. Ohio Communication Journal, 55, 109-118.
Foss, S. K. (1996). Rhetorical criticism: Exploration and practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.
Foust, C., Pason, A., & Rogness, K. (2017). What democracy looks like: The rhetoric of social movements and counterpublics. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
Friedersdorf, C. (2014, March 12). The fantastical vision for the original SeaWorld. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/the-fantastical-vision-for-the-original-seaworld/284561/
Geiling, N. (2015, November 9). SeaWorld San Diego ending controversial killer whale shows. Think Progress. Retrieved from https://thinkprogress.org/seaworld-san-diego-ending-controversial-killer-whale-shows-c0a18bffbb2b/
Goodnow, P. (2006). On Black Panthers, blue ribbons, and peace signs: The function of symbols in social campaigns. Visual Communication Quarterly, 13(3), 166–179. doi:10.1207/s15551407vcq1303_4
Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1992). Excellence in public relations and communication management. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
Harold, C. (2004). Pranking rhetoric: “Culture jamming” as media activism. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 21(3), 189-211. doi:10.1080/0739318042000212693
Heath, R. L. & Waymer, D. (2009). Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II. Activist public relations and the paradox of the positive: A case study of Frederick Douglass’ ‘Fourth of July Address’. In R. Heath, E. Toth & D. Waymer (Eds.), Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II (pp. 195–215). New York, NY: SAGE.
Henderson, A. (2005). Activism in ‘paradise’: Identity management in a public relations campaign against genetic engineering. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17(2), 117–137. doi:10.1207/s1532754xjprr1702_4
Hess, A. (2011). Critical-rhetorical ethnography: Rethinking the place and process of rhetoric. Communication Studies, 62(2),127-152. doi:10.1080/10510974.2011.529750
Hon, L. (2017). Editor’s essay. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), 1-3. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1
Howard, B. C. (2013, November 22). Animal-rights activists take air out of Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131121-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-protests-animal-rights-seaworld-joan-jett/
Ihlen, Ø. (2004). Norwegian hydroelectric power: Testing a heuristic for analyzing symbolic strategies and resources. Public Relations Review, 30, 217-223. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2004.02.001
Jasper, J. M. & Poulsen, J. D. (1995). Recruiting strangers and friends: Moral shocks and social networks in animal rights and anti-nuclear protests. Social Problems, 42, 493-512.
Johnston, J. (2017). The public interest: A new way of thinking for public relations? Public Relations Inquiry,6(1), 5–22. doi:10.1177/2046147X16644006
Lacewing, M. (2008). Philosophy for AS. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Landau, J. (2014). From in loco parentis to Student-Citizens: The 1964 Berkeley Protests as De tournament. Communication Quarterly, 62(5), 589–606. doi:10.1080/01463373.2014.949384
Li, L. (2013, November 20). PETA & angry Alec Baldwin go after SeaWorld’s Thanksgiving day float. Retrieved from https://observer.com/2013/11/peta-angry-alec-baldwin-go-after-seaworlds-thanksgiving-day-float/
Madden, S., Janoske, M., Winkler, R., and Harpole, Z. (2018). Who loves consent? Social media and the culture jamming of Victoria’s Secret. Public Relations Inquiry, 7(2), 171-186. doi:10.1177/2046147X18764216
McEwan, B. (2014, June 3). PETA vs. SeaWorld: The creative tactics and tech that drive PETA’s SeaWorld Campaign. Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/06/03/peta-vs-seaworld-the-creative-tactics-and-tech-that-drive-peta-s-seaworld-campaign/
Middleton, M., Senda-Cook, S. & Endres, D. (2011). Articulating rhetorical field methods: Challenges and tensions. Western Journal of Communication, 75, 386-406. doi:10.1080/10570314.2011.586969
Milner, R. (2013). Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. International Journal of Communication, 7, 2357–2390.
Neate, R. (2015) SeaWorld sees profits plunge 84% as customers desert controversial park. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/06/seaworld-profits-plunge- customers
Newman, A. (2013, November 18). New York Today: Parade Protests. New York Times. Retrieved from https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/new-york-today-parade-protests/
Olson, K. & Goodnight, T. (1994). Entanglements of consumption, cruelty, privacy, and fashion:
The social controversy over fur. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 80 (3), 249-276. doi:10.1080/00335639409384072
Penny, J. (2012). Visible identities, visual rhetoric: The self-labeled body as a popular platform for political persuasion. International Journal of Communication, 6, 2318–2336.
PETA. (2013, October 30). ‘Orcas’ rain on SeaWorld’s parade. Retrieved from http://www.peta.org
PETA. (2014a, November 19). Naked ‘orcas’ to protest Macy’s SeaWorld float. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org
PETA. (2014b, January 1). PETA protests SeaWorld float at 2014 Rose parade [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3u1N66VyA
PETA. (2014c, December 4). SeaWorld protestors jump barricade at Macy’s parade [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZBvkmyNNs0
PETA. (2014d, December 5). SeaWorld ‘Christmas Celebration’ to draw PETA protest. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org
PETA. (2015, May 27). Go underwater with PETA’s new virtual reality experience, “I, orca.” Retrieved from https://www.peta.org/blog/go-underwater-with-petas-new-virtual-reality-experience-i-orca/
PETA. (2016, October 26). From tanks to tombstones: PETA to set up chilling orca ‘cemetery’ at SeaWorld Orlando. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org
PETA. (2017a, July 6). 39 ‘orcas’ to hold ‘die-in’ in call to stay away from SeaWorld. PETA.org. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org
PETA. (2017b, August 2). Happening now: Dying ‘orcas’ ‘beached’ at SeaWorld’s Aquatica. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org
PETA protest demands SeaWorld release its orcas. (2018, March 5). Retrieved from http://www.thecwsandiego.com/story/37642949/peta-protest-demands-seaworld-release-its-orcas
PETA takes dramatic stand against SeaWorld’s Rose Parade float, leading to 19 arrests. (2014, January 2). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/02/peta-seaworld-rose-parade_n_4532159.html
Rice, J. E. (2008). The new ‘‘new:’’ Making a case for critical affect studies. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 94, 200–212. doi:10.1080/00335630801975434
Romero, D. (2013, December 31). Rose Parade’s SeaWorld Float will be focus of PETA protest. LA Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.laweekly.com/news/rose-parades-seaworld-float-will-be-focus-of-peta-protest-4255052
Rovisco, M. & Veneti, A. (2017). Picturing protest: visuality, visibility and the public sphere. Visual Communication, 16(3), 271–277. doi:10.1177/1470357217704633
Sample, I. (2008, December 11). Stress and lack of exercise are killing elephants, zoos warned. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/dec/12/elephants-animal-welfare
Sangiovanni, M. & Bondaroff, T. (2014). From advocacy to confrontation: Direct enforcement by environmental NGOs. International Studies Quarterly, 58(2), 348-361. doi:10.1111/isqu.12132
SeaWorld (n.d.). What we do. Retrieved from https://seaworldentertainment.com/en/what-we-do/welcome
Selzer, J., & Crowley, S. (Eds.), (1999). Rhetorical bodies. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Smith, A. (2018, 27 February). SeaWorld CEO steps down as attendance slides. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/27/news/companies/seaworld-ceo-joel-manby-steps-down/index.html
Smith, M. F. (2005). Activism. In R.L Heath (Ed.,) The Sage handbook of public relations. (395-407). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Smith, M. F. & Ferguson, D. P. (2010). Activism 2.0. In R.L. Heath (Ed.), The Sage handbook of public relations (2nd edition). (395–407). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Stokes, A. Q. (2013). You are what you eat: Slow Food USA’s constitutive public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 25(1), 68–90. doi:10.1080/1062726X.2013.739102
Stokes, A. Q. & Atkins-Sayre, W. (2018). PETA, rhetorical fracture, and the power of digital activism. Public Relations Inquiry, 7(2), 149-170. doi:10.1177/2046147X18770216
Stokes, A. Q. & Rubin, D. (2010). Activism and the limits of symmetry: The public relations battle between Colorado GASP and Philip Morris. Journal of Public Relations Research 22(1), 26–48. doi:10.1080/10627260903150268
Wallace, B. (2016, May 4). SeaWorld breached: Score one for the cetaceans. New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/seaworld-tilikum-orcas.html
Weaver, C. K. (2010). Dressing for battle in the new global economy: Putting power, identity, and discourse into public relations theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 15, 279–288. doi:10.1177/0893318901152007
Weaver, C. K. (2013). Mothers, bodies, and breasts: Organizing strategies and tactics in women’s activism. In C. Daymon & Demetrious, K. (Eds.), Gender and public relations: Critical perspectives on voice, image and identity. London, UK: Routledge.
Zielinski, A. (2016, October 25). New Halloween attraction at SeaWorld: An orca graveyard. Sacramento Current. Retrieved from https://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2016/10/25/new-halloween-attraction-at-seaworld-an-orca-graveyard
Authors publishing their work in the Journal of Public Interest Communications retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. By agreeing to these terms, the author(s) grant and assign the following rights to the Publisher:
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to publish, reproduce, publicly display, publicly perform, and distribute the Work in perpetuity throughout the world in all means of expression by any method or media now known or hereafter discovered, including electronic format.
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to use the Author’s name and likeness in association with the Work in published form and in advertising and promotional materials, and
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to license others to do any or all of the above.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website).