Actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is being heavily criticized on social media after posting Instagram photos of himself and his family during a weekend trip to the Georgia Aquarium, reports Fox News.
The first photo included himself, his girlfriend Lauren Hashian, and his 2-year-old daughter Jasmine observing a tank of whale sharks. Johnson added that he was in awe of the animals and grateful to the aquarium staff for overseeing the more than 100,000 sea creatures housed in the facility.
The second image showed the actor playing with a beluga whale. In the caption, he jokes about having found his next co-star.
The third Instagram photograph features Johnson smiling down into a sea lion tank. In his message, he tries again to be funny and writes a mock-conversation between himself and the sea lion in the picture.
The sea lion, whose name is Katie, was featured again in a video Johnson posted on Monday in which he pretends to have a conversation with her — he talks while she “responds” by making a sound on cue.
Although Johnson is one of the most liked actors in Hollywood, even he can’t escape unscathed from an aquarium.
Since posting the images, the comments sections have included a deluge of angry messages from animal lovers who either express their disappointment or outright chastise the actor for his choice to visit an aquarium.
“This is sad,” was one of the comments, made by a user who was one of many to use the anti-captivity hashtag #EmptyTheCages.
Another commenter wrote, “Yes, they’re magnificent! They certainly don’t belong in an aquarium! Animals are used for humans’ amusement and profit … they should ALL be free to live their lives as nature intended!”
One comment, which earned over 1,000 likes read, “Animal cruelty and captivity should not be supported, let alone promoted. I thought you were a man of principles whose views would be against such concepts.”
As always, there was also a slew of comments defending Johnson and accusing the critics of being overly harsh and sensitive.
After the 2013 documentary Blackfish made a huge dent in public consciousness around aquarium practices and treatment of animals, abolishing aquariums, zoos, and parks like SeaWorld have been at the forefront of animal rights activism.
Georgia Aquarium, in particular, has received considerable scrutiny for the deaths of beluga whales in their possession. Animal rights organization In Defense of Animals has also ranked the Atlanta aquarium as having the fourth-worst tanks for whales and dolphins in North America, reported Yahoo!.
Johnson has yet to comment on the controversial response to his images.