Despite an online petition with more than 80,000 signatures and opposition from animal-welfare groups and celebrities, SeaWorld's float will be part of the lineup in the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.
SeaWorld's image problem has been highlighted in a recent documentary film "Blackfish," viewed by millions in theaters as well as on CNN.
"A lot of people in the general public have realized what the truth is about what goes on behind the scenes at SeaWorld," said Samantha Berg, a former SeaWorld trainer who appeared in the film. "They get that it is in fact a circus environment, that this is not real education and conservation."
Berg said the float planned for the parade by SeaWorld is made of steel, foam and plastic and depicts wild sea life - which she called a far cry from the reality of animals kept in barren tanks at SeaWorld. The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals staged a protest Tuesday outside the building where the floats are being assembled in Bergen County, N.J.
Orcas at SeaWorld are denied a natural habitat at the park, kept instead in tiny tanks and forced to perform tricks for years on end, Berg said. In the wild, they swim from 80 to 100 miles per day and live lifespans similar to those of humans, she said - and they die much younger in captivity. She called the SeaWorld float a "Disneyfied" version of reality.
"It's embarrassing that they would ask the American public to swallow that version of reality," she said, "given the information that's out there."
Berg said a CNN poll released after "Blackfish" aired on the network asked respondents if they would take their kids to SeaWorld, and 86 percent answered "no." She added that people can help effect change through their wallets.