SeaWorld to Stop Spying on Activists
SeaWorld in the U.S. has admitted some of its employees posed as animal activists to spy on its critics, and CEO Joel Manby said in a statement on Thursday that his company would no longer use such practices.
Last year, an employee from its San Diego amusement park was discovered posing as an activist for animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
During its earnings call on Thursday, SeaWorld announced that its board of directors is taking steps to strengthen the company’s security and risk management policies and controls. The statement says: “Following the completion of an investigation conducted by independent outside counsel, the board has directed that the company’s management team end a practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of company employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats that the company had received.”
“We recognize the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards. As always, the security and well-being of our employees, customers and animals remain at the forefront of our business practices,” said Manby.
SeaWorld employee Paul McComb was briefly suspended in July after PETA accused him of trying to incite violence among peaceful protesters whilst posting as an activist. He has now returned to work at SeaWorld.
PETA’s description of McComb’s actions: “Since 2012, Thomas Jones has been trying to cozy up to PETA employees and unsuspecting members of the public who object to SeaWorld’s practices, attending animal rights meetings and peaceful protests at SeaWorld and going so far as to post inflammatory messages on social media, such as “burn [SeaWorld] to the ground” and “drain the new tanks at #SeaWorld,” in an attempt to incite illegal actions. But, as reported by Bloomberg today, PETA has exposed “Thomas Jones” as Paul T. McComb, a human resources employee at SeaWorld San Diego.
“McComb has repeatedly tried to incite animal advocates to act illegally, stating that it’s time for SeaWorld protesters to “get a little aggressive,” to engage in “direct action,” to “grab your pitch forks [sic] and torches,” and to blow horns outside the homes of SeaWorld vice presidents at night. He also organized a “direct action” protest—advertising it as “more exciting than just holding signs”—only to fail to appear at the demonstration.”
“SeaWorld knows that the public is rejecting its cruel orca prisons and is so desperate that it created a corporate espionage campaign,” said PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange at the time. “Instead of creating a dirty tricks department, SeaWorld should put its resources into releasing the orcas into coastal sanctuaries.”