Press-Republican

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November 20, 2013

Macy's Thanksgiving parade awash in float flaps

PLATTSBURGH — NEW YORK (AP) — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is awash in animal-related protests over its floats, with controversies involving the unlikely pairing of rocker Joan Jett and Shamu the killer whale.

Activists plan to line the route of next week's parade to protest a SeaWorld float over accusations in a new documentary that the theme parks treat whales badly. And ranchers succeeded in getting Jett pulled off the South Dakota tourism float after they questioned why the vegetarian and animal-rights ally was representing their beef-loving state.

The float flaps threaten to shake Macy's traditional position of staying out of politics and soaring silently above the fray, like the massive balloons of Snoopy, Kermit the Frog and SpongeBob SquarePants.

"The parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate or other forms of advocacy," Cincinnati-based Macy's Inc. said in a statement this week.

It was in that spirit that parade executive producer Amy Kule told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the SeaWorld float is staying. "There is no controversy," she said. "Our goal is to entertain and that is their goal as well."

The SeaWorld float, which depicts rolling waves, tropical fish, penguins and Shamu, comes months after the release of the documentary "Blackfish," which contends that SeaWorld's poor treatment of its killer whales contributed to the aggression of a whale involved in a trainer's death.

SeaWorld says the accusations have "absolutely no basis" and that "the men and women who care for these animals at SeaWorld are dedicated in every respect to their health and well-being."

Activists, including members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, say they plan to stage a protest somewhere along the route during next week's parade. And the group says it has sent Macy's more than 80,000 emails from animal lovers demanding that the store drop the float.

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