At a concert in July, One Direction's Harry Styles hit fans with some real talk.

Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images.


"Don't. Go. To. SeaWorld."

You heard him ladies and gents. Don't go to sea world! 🚨🚨🚨 Please follow @Dolphin_Project + for more info please check out www.dolphinproject.com
A video posted by @maisie_williams on


Although it's not every day you see a world-famous teen heartthrob taking on a massive theme park corporation, Styles' comments didn't just come out of nowhere.

In 2013, the controversial documentary "Blackfish" made some shocking claims about SeaWorld.

Photo by Valery Hache/Getty Images.

Namely, that SeaWorld lies to its guests about the health of its sea mammals, that orcas at SeaWorld have shorter lifespans than wild orcas, and that captivity can create conditions for mental illness — and incite violent behavior — in killer whales.

It was a huge disaster for SeaWorld, whose profits dipped 84% between the second quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2015.

After the movie came out, SeaWorld spent a lot of money on an ad campaign to convince people that things are actually all hunky-dory with their killer whales.

A spot posted to YouTube in April claims that SeaWorld hasn't trapped orcas in the wild for over three decades, and that, contra "Blackfish," their captive orcas live "just as long" as their free brethren.

But Styles wasn't buying it, and for the most part, he's right not to.

Photo by Valery Hache/Getty Images.


Although it's true that SeaWorld hasn't captured any wild orcas for over 35 years, their claim that their captive orcas live just as long as wild orcas doesn't really hold up under scrutiny. The median life expectancy for killer whales at SeaWorld is indeed about on par with the median life expectancy for non-captive orcas — 30-50 years — by some estimates. But that doesn't give us the whole story.

According to a joint report by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, the biologist SeaWorld relies on for its statistics — Douglas DeMaster — admits that the company is only looking at one specific chunk of time, rather than all the available data. In the same report, Dutch biologist Jaap van der Toom clarifies that "longevity is basically an incremental finding" and it all depends on how the statistics are phrased. So, taken another way, the same numbers show that nearly 33% of SeaWorld's orcas die within eight years of their arrival.

And that's not the only regrettable message SeaWorld has sent to try to wiggle out of the bad publicity. In response to "Blackfish's" allegation that the orca who killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was driven psychotic by years in captivity, a top executive at SeaWorld countered by blaming Brancheau for her own death.

Even for a company in free fall, July 2015 was an especially bad month for SeaWorld, and Styles' comments were a big reason why.

According to The Guardian, Styles' boycott call, along with accusations that a SeaWorld employee tried to infiltrate the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), "led to a 400% increase in online comments about SeaWorld in July, more than 2.5m, the vast majority of which were negative."

That's, um. Pretty bad.

SeaWorld is learning a hard lesson.

"...story of my life." — Sea World, probably. GIF from "Kiss You" by One Direction.

When you've lost One Direction, you've lost the hearts and minds of a generation.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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