A California bill that sought to end killer whale shows at SeaWorld in San Diego and phase out their captivity was put on hold Tuesday, dousing an escalating fight between animal activists and a major tourist attraction.
The bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, agreed during the first committee hearing for AB2140 to revisit his proposal after further study.
As a result, the bill is dead for this year and the soonest lawmakers could vote on the proposal would be mid-2015 following additional hearings.
"It's unfortunate that much of the conversation has been fueled ... by fear and invective and misinformation," Bloom said. "It's clear that many committee members are simply unprepared to make a decision on the bill."
Bloom was inspired by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" in which filmmakers argue that captivity and mistreatment of orcas make the animals aggressive and has led to attacks on trainers.
Public outrage over the movie drove 1.2 million people to sign a petition supporting the bill that was delivered to the Assembly Monday by three elementary school students who successfully stopped an overnight school field trip to SeaWorld.
Dozens of animal rights activists packed the hearing room on Tuesday to support the bill, with more who were unable to get seats waiting outside.
SeaWorld dismisses their contention that orcas are too intelligent and too large for captivity and says the arguments are based on emotion and distortions from the movie.
The stance of the marine park was supported by business and tourist groups.
SeaWorld San Diego houses 10 killer whales, Under the bill, the animals would be moved into a larger sea pen and could not be bred.
Lobbyist Scott Wetch told lawmakers the bill would likely result in SeaWorld sending its orcas to parks outside the state.