San Diego airport relents, allows anti-SeaWorld ad

The San Diego airport has agreed to run an animal rights group's advertisement asking visitors to avoid SeaWorld, a major tourist attraction in the city that has faced criticism over its killer whale shows, the ACLU said on Thursday.

The airport agreed to run the advertisement as part of a legal settlement after the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a federal lawsuit in March accusing the airport and the company that handles its advertising of infringing on PETA's free speech rights by initially balking at the ad.

"There appears to have been viewpoint discrimination and we are glad that issue was resolved," said Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties which helped represent PETA in the lawsuit.

Officials at San Diego International Airport, without admitting wrongdoing in a legal settlement filed in court this month, agreed to allow the PETA advertising poster to go up this week in their baggage claim area.

The ad welcomes visitors to San Diego and features film and television actress Kathy Najimy, a San Diego native. "If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld," the script says.

The legal tussle over the advertisement comes as SeaWorld faces increased scrutiny over conditions for its killer whales, in large part due to last year's broadcast of the documentary "Blackfish" which tells the story of an orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld's park in Orlando, Florida, in 2010.

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