April 1, 2011 — -- Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons always has welcomed buzz and controversy around his racy Super Bowl commercials. But backlash against his recent video could damage his company's place as the number-one Internet domain name company.
This time, the controversy surrounds Parsons' four-minute video of an elephant hunt in Zimbabwe on his Go Daddy video site.
This week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it will close its account with Go Daddy and is encouraging other account holders to do the same.
"We're encouraging anyone who has a domain business with Go Daddy to cut ties," said Ashley Gonzalez, a PETA spokeswoman. "He's obviously not feeling remorseful, but if his customer base speaks up, maybe he'll listen to that message."
Gonzalez said that although the elephants are not endangered, they are "majestic animals that have complex emotions and family bonds."
"It's just horrible for him to post a video of him shooting this animal," Gonzalez said.
A Go Daddy competitor, Namecheap, is inviting attention to the controversy and has launched a promotion in which you can transfer your account for $4.99. Namecheap added that it will donate $1 to Save the Elephants.
Go Daddy, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., says it manages half the websites in the country and has 2,950 employees. The company aired its seventh Super Bowl commercial in February, featuring IndyCar driver Danica Patrick, fitness coach Jillian Michaels and a computer-edited television actress Joan Rivers.
The company said protests have not been effective: "As of late last night, there has been no significant change in the business, which has been growing rapidly for years," a Go Daddy spokeswoman, Elizabeth Driscoll, told ABC News.
Parsons has defended the hunt in the media. He said that a local farmer asked him to hunt the elephants that were destroying crops on his farm and leading to growing hunger in the area.
"Each year I go to Zimbabwe and hunt problem elephant. It's one of the most beneficial and rewarding things I do," he wrote in his description of the video, posted March 14.
Go Daddy CEO Assailed for Elephant Hunting in Africa
Parsons said there is a persistent problem in that part of Zimbabwe, where elephants trample farmers' crops in an area that is already short of food.
"In Zimbabwe, the people there are incredibly impoverished," Parsons told Mashable. "They treasure an empty plastic water bottle. It's heart-wrenching to watch. ... These people are all subsistence farmers, and if they don't have a good harvest, they starve. That's it -- there's no support, there's no welfare, and if they starve, they will die."
Zimbabwe is about the size of Montana, with a population of over 12.5 million people, according to the World Bank. It has gone through years of political violence.
"This farmer was desperate," Parsons told Mashable. "He couldn't get the herd out of his field. He asked us to come and deal with it."
Parsons added that the farmer had tried a number of other solutions that did not keep elephants out of the crops, including fencing, loud noises and fires.
PETA's Gonzalez said Parsons' response was not a solution to the bigger problem of the destruction of elephant habitats in Zimbabwe, leading them to find food elsewhere.
"As humans move around the world, there will be wildlife conflicts. But there are humane, non-lethal ways to deal with those conflicts," Gonzalez said. "What Bob Parsons did is not a solution. It's a very short-term fix. If you look at the video, he's gloating. He's sitting on the elephant with a big smile on his face. It's a heartless act."