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The four members of the Barenaked Ladies: Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan, and Ed Robertson. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
The four members of the Barenaked Ladies: Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan, and Ed Robertson. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

How fans convinced Barenaked Ladies to cancel SeaWorld concert Add to ...

Barenaked Ladies have bowed out of a concert at SeaWorld in Orlando following outcry that the band was putting profit motives ahead of animal rights.

It all began on Monday when a fan site not associated with the band tweeted the news of an upcoming performance, originally scheduled for Feb. 15.

Another fan, who tweets under the name Ian Padley (@paddersmoose) expressed his disapproval and brought drummer Tyler Stewart (@baldy67) into the conversation: “Poor decision. Motivated by money. @Baldy67 Watch @blackfishmovie. Then cancel the show. Please.”

Blackfish, the newly released documentary co-produced by CNN Films, explores the unusually aggressive behaviour of a famous orca named Tilikum. Since being taken into captivity, the killer whale has lived up to its appellation, taking the lives of three people. “I’d been expecting someone to be killed by Tilikum,” an interviewee says, ominously. Orcas are not characteristically violent in the wild.

That same day, Stewart acknowledged Padley’s tweet with the reply, “Like you, we’ve seen the movie and were affected. We ’re currently looking at options on how to proceed.”

Some took the liberty of offering the band options: “if you’re contractually oblighted, play the show in blackfish tshirts”

(We’ll assume @TheHotelBroker meant “obligated.”)

Fans also turned to Change.org to sign a petition urging the band to cancel the show. CNN reports that the page accumulated more than 9,200 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

Around this time, the band posted a message on its Facebook page explaining its decision to back out of the performance. “This is a complicated issue, and we don’t claim to understand all of it, but we don’t feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time. The Seaworld folks have been gracious, and extended us invitations to the park to learn more about what they do, and how they do it.” A swell of praise and grateful comments has since silenced much of the criticism. “Thank you for taking this courageous and perhaps controversial stand! Some will not understand why, but will at least know that there are a lot of people who see dolphin and whale captive industries for what they are, cruel and exploitative,” wrote someone under the name Leo Guzman.

Still others, including a zoologist, remained cautious. “Blackfish is biased emotional journalism that doesn’t give you anywhere near the full story… BNL– I don’t blame you to not want to get in the mess, but take a tour and listen to the animal interpreters. You’ll see nothing but love, passion and the best care for the amazing creatures they interact with every single day.”

Meanwhile, SeaWorld hasn’t acknowledged the cancellation on Twitter, focusing instead on “sea-sonal” gift ideas and the return of rescued two sea turtles to the waters off Titusville, Fla. The latter tweet was accompanied by the hashtag “SeaWorldCares”.

While the band insists it did not bow to pressure, “we here at Barenaked Ladies have made a decision based on what we feel. It’s not about money, or petitions, or press…” the immediacy of the outcry clearly had an effect. “We listen to [our fans], and they’re important to us. Their sensibilities resonate with ours, and have for decades now.” The band ended the post on a lighter note with: “We’ll see you all at a mutually agreeable concert venue in the near future!”

One, presumably, that won’t involve any live animals.

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