ASI members research SeaWorld in response to protest

By Saara Lampwalla

Bronco Animal Rights Network, a Cal Poly Pomona club dedicated to preserving animal rights, continues to protest the sale of SeaWorld tickets on campus.

The organization started a petition in late January to stop the Games Room Etc.’s sale and met with Associated Students, Inc. student government leaders shortly after the petition’s launch to present its argument.

To the group’s surprise, so did SeaWorld.

On March 6, both BARN and SeaWorld presented their cases to ASI. While BARN advocated that CPP students are against the on-campus sales of SeaWorld tickets because of the organization’s alleged unethical treatment of their animal attractions, SeaWorld argued the opposite.

After the meeting, ASI members reached a consensus, which called for further research about the subject before making a decision.

The SeaWorld representatives offered ASI an opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the SeaWorld facilities. The ASI representatives met with SeaWorld trainers, veterinarians and leadership members. To get a balanced view of the issue, committee and administrative advisors recommended that the group watch the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish.” The ASI representatives also attended a PETA workshop.

Representatives included ASI Senator Pro-Tempore Taylor Young, Attorney General Andrea Cendejas, Inter-Hall Council Senator-At-Large Jake Ly, Agriculture Senator Kimberly Rotunno, Bronco Student Center Director Barnaby Peake and Commercial Service Coordinator Sandy Mihiar.

First-year hospitality management student and BARN President Ryan Hajek was pleased by ASI’s initiative to research the topic, but hesitant of their means of education.

“Not all ASI voting members went to SeaWorld or heard PETA’s side,” said Hajek. “So why are they voting on the issue without being educated on both sides? The tour that certain ASI members got at SeaWorld is not something that the average student would be able to see.

“There’s a big difference between [SeaWorld] treating ASI leaders to a tour and theme park experience versus [PETA]giving them a presentation on campus. It’s definitely skewed.”

After BARN received 1,155 signatures on its online petition, the club relayed the information to ASI. Although the case had an overwhelming amount of signatures, ASI developed concerns about the integrity of the findings. According to ASI minutes recorded on Feb. 26, ASI ” [did] not know which signatures represented Cal Poly students and which were outsiders to the campus.”

BARN attempted to rally students on campus for the cause. Members presented to their classes and tabled at U-Hour. On April 9, the group rallied with signs that read, “thanks but no tanks,” and “imagine your entire life in a tub.” As of May 7, BARN has 825 student, staff and faculty signatures collected from tabling, rallying and presenting the information to their classes on campus.

ASI Vice President Louis Harfouche said that ASI was listening to the students’ voices.

“This is a decision that should be based on the students’ needs and wants, not how outside corporations conduct business,” said Harfouche in an email.

Harfouche is one of several ASI members who felt that a trip to SeaWorld would not benefit his or her decision-making.

“This is not a case of treatment of animals at SeaWorld,” Harfouche said. “Instead, this is an argument about the sales of tickets in the Games Room. ASI offers the sales of tickets as a service to the students and has no direct influence over SeaWorld’s practices. Therefore, the argument that should matter to the student leaders is what student population should we support? The students benefiting from this service of cheaper tickets, or the students in opposition of sales of SeaWorld tickets based on the mistreatment of animals?”

ASI Attorney General Andrea Cendejas found the experience useful.

“I think speaking with both [parties] has been beneficial in understanding the debate and the students’ desires to take a stand,” said Cendejas in an email.

“The decision that ASI will be taking is not about supporting or condoning SeaWorld but of taking a service from our students. It is a rather significant discount for our campus community, and that is something that we must also take into account.”

The ASI Games Room offers Single Day tickets to SeaWorld San Diego at $64, compared to SeaWorld’s $89 at the park.

Despite BARN’s conflict with ASI, the animal rights group wishes to keep the matter in the student leaders’ hands.

“I think that it’s important that students make the decision and not the university as a whole,” said Hajek. “[The university] exists because of the students and partially by the students with all of the ASI services. ASI is selling the tickets. Students should be the principal voice.”

BARN plans to continue tabling until ASI makes its decision.


Brittney Fleshman / The Poly Post


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