SAN DIEGO -- A leading animal rights group is taking its fight to stop SeaWorld trainers from riding dolphins during shows directly to the company's shareholders.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has long battled SeaWorld over its handling of killer whales, proposed on Tuesday a shareholder vote to ban certain performance stunts, such as balancing on dolphins' nostrums.
PETA's proposed nonbinding resolution states "in order to address the most pressing issue that SeaWorld faces today -- the public's continued opposition to captive-animal displays -- the shareholders urge the board to stop allowing trainers to stand on dolphins' faces and ride on their backs in exploitive and potentially harmful circus-style shows."
A SeaWorld spokesman said the company has yet to receive the proposal but called it "another attempt by PETA to distract from the real work SeaWorld does every day of caring for and protecting thousands of animals."
The company contends it has helped 36,000 sick, injured and stranded animals over the past five decades.
"An organization that claims to be truly committed to animal welfare should want to partner with SeaWorld to increase animal rescue and conservation efforts," the company said.
PETA believes it has met the requirements -- including owning a minimum number of SeaWorld shares -- to qualify the resolution for the company's proxy ballot at its next annual meeting, which typically is held in June.
But it could face challenges. PETA submitted six proposals for shareholder votes at various companies this year, none of which made it to a final ballot.
The proposals were either settled with the company or successfully challenged before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Brett Miller, head of data solutions for proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services ESG.
"Animal welfare-related proposals have been voted on by shareholders far less in recent years," said Miller. "Compared to 13 proposals in 2012, only one proposal was voted on in the U.S. in 2019."