“The loud music and normal party raucousness that are part of the Pride event are deeply disturbing and unnerving to the sound-sensitive beluga whales at the aquarium,” Gunn said in the letter.
Gunn has advocated on PETA’s behalf before, notably concerning the use of animal skins and fur in fashion.
“As a leader of Pride, you champion human rights of the individuals in the LGBT community. How is it possible to be simultaneously dismissive of the pain and anguish suffered by another species of mammal?”
“With close to six months of lead time, you can surely make it work,” Gunn continued. “I believe that Atlanta’s LGBT community would agree that the kick-off celebration would be more in keeping with Pride’s spirit and these compassionate changing times if the party were cruelty-free.”
PETA has called for the party be moved for several years, saying it was “torture” for the animals in 2011. Last fall, actress Jane Lynch wrote a similar letter to then-managing director Cooke and the APC board, asking organizers to move the party.
When the APC refused, PETA sent a small delegation to protest.
Cooke said today via email that the event will not be moved, despite Gunn’s letter or any future complaints from PETA.
“We have a strong relationships with our community partners at Georgia Aquarium,” Cooke said.
“Our agreements with Georgia Aquarium are signed and we are excited about the fifth Official Kick-off Party being in their facility. Furthermore, we view this letter and others like it for what they are: an orchestrated publicity stunt by an extremist animal rights organization known for creating these kinds of protests. I was dismayed to discover that out of the literally hundreds of events like our Official Kick-off Party that occur in Georgia Aquarium, only ours is protested by PETA.”
Cooke, who says he’s a fan of “Project Runway,” said he invited Gunn to attend this year’s event to see how the animals are cared for first-hand.
Whether the party itself or the music played during is harmful to the animals continues to be up for debate. When GA Voice reported on the controversy last year, we asked two experts their opinions of noise impact on the marine animals. The experts disagreed, and officials from the Aquarium have repeatedly denied any harm to the animals during events like the Atlanta Pride Kick-off Party.
Cooke believes that the controversy will continue as the party draws closer.
“I do think PETA will continue their campaign against our event,” he added. “They want to manufacture an issue where one does not exist. We are confident in the high quality of animal care provided by Georgia Aquarium. The quality of life for those animals is their main focus.”