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After nixing show, Willie Nelson says: 'What they do at SeaWorld is not OK'

By Greg Botelho and Alan Duke, CNN
updated 5:22 PM EST, Fri December 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Willie Nelson says "it wasn't that hard" a decision to cancel his SeaWorld gig
  • "I don't agree with the way they treat their animals," he says
  • Nelson's cancellation comes a week after the Barenaked Ladies canceled
  • The theme park has faced criticism in the wake of the CNN doc, "Blackfish"

(CNN) -- Willie Nelson said Friday that he felt he had no choice but cancel a gig at SeaWorld, given public pressure and his own conviction that the way the aquatic entertainment giant operates is not acceptable.

"I don't agree with the way they treat their animals," Nelson told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "It wasn't that hard a deal for me."

The country music legend's comments come one day after SeaWorld Orlando spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said Nelson would not be part of next year Bands, Brew & BBQ events "due to scheduling conflicts."

But the 80-year-old crooner didn't mention scheduling having played any part in his rationale. Rather he nixed the show because he does not agree with SeaWorld's treatment of its orca, or killer, whales and other sea creatures -- a sentiment that has spread among those who have seen "Blackfish" documentary that aired on CNN on the topic.

He isn't alone. The Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies also pulled the plug on their show at the Florida theme park for similar reasons, a decision made two days after drummer Tyler Stewart tweeted the group was "looking at options" after seeing "Blackfish" and after an online petition urged them to do so.

SeaWorld responds to questions about captive orcas, 'Blackfish' film

Nelson pointed to similar efforts asking him to follow suit.

The most meaningful, even if it had just a few hundred signatures, may have come from one of Nelson's grandchildren, with "people she knew asking me not to play this venue."

Another petition had 9,000 names attached to it on Change.org, with author Danielle Legg writing that Nelson's "activism for animals, the environment and other good causes" made it imperative that he cancel his show, in light of the documentary.

When his decision became public, Legg declared "victory" and said she hoped his and the Barenaked Ladies' decisions "will inspire other artists to stay away from performing at SeaWorld because at least they've got the choice -- unlike the animals trapped there."

Such public pressure wasn't insignificant, but Nelson said he acted because he felt it was the right thing to do.

Many zoos can be considered "cruel" for how they hold animals, the singer said, adding that he wouldn't blame a captive monkey "for wanting to throw stuff at you."

"I understand that there are some natural-habitat zoos out there, which is probably OK," Nelson added. "But what they do at SeaWorld is not OK."

SeaWorld challenges ban limiting interaction between whale and trainer

CNN's Jane Caffrey contributed to this report.

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