PETA claims victory for animal rights in demise of SeaWorld Trainer Barbie

LOS ANGELES, April 24 (Reuters) - Mattel Inc said on Friday it has ended production of its SeaWorld Trainer Barbie doll, a move cheered by an animal rights group that has been a leading critic of SeaWorld for its treatment of killer whales.

Mattel spokesman Alex Clark said production of the doll ended when a license agreement with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment expired last year. He did not say why the deal was not renewed.

SeaWorld, which operates parks in San Diego, San Antonio, and Orlando, Florida, has seen other business deals, including one with SouthWest Airlines, fall apart since the 2013 CNN documentary “Blackfish” presented a critical view of how the company treats killer whales, also called orcas.

Stephanie Shaw, corporate affairs specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the group approached Mattel in 2012 and sought to persuade the California-based company to stop making the doll.

“Barbie has a rich history as an animal rights activist, she’s actually been fur-free for her entire history,” Shaw said. “We are delighted to see that she can retain her animal friendly image.”

SeaWorld Trainer Barbie comes with a toy whale and a toy dolphin, which squirt water, and a tiny fish pool. Barbie is dressed in a pink and blue wet suit.

“We are disappointed in Mattel’s decision to stop production of the SeaWorld Trainer Barbie,” SeaWorld said in a statement.

The company added that it was particularly disappointed that “the decision appears to be based on complaints from PETA, an extremist organization that works to close zoos and aquariums.”

Despite the end of production, the SeaWorld Barbie might still be available through some retailers as they go through their supplies of the special edition doll, Clark said. He could not say how many of the dolls were made but added that Mattel has dozens of special edition Barbies.

Opponents of killer whale shows at SeaWorld have filed three lawsuit against the company since March.

In the face of negative publicity, SeaWorld has said it would cut jobs in an effort to save $50 million by the end of 2015. SeaWorld officials say the story depicted in “Blackfish” of the killing of a trainer at the company’s Orlando park by a captive orca was full of lies. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)