SeaWorld worker spied on animal rights activists
US theme park admits sending an employee to infiltrate animal rights group Peta
SeaWorld has admitted that an animal rights activist who posted violent and inflammatory remarks on social media was actually one of their employees working undercover.
Paul McComb, who works in SeaWorld San Diego's human resources department, spent three years as a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) group before being discovered last year.
Peta claims that during his time with them, McComb posted inflammatory rhetoric on social media and tried to incite other activists to violence.
"SeaWorld's corporate espionage campaign included trying to coerce kind people into setting SeaWorld on fire or draining its tanks," a statement from the group said. "When SeaWorld spied, it had no interest in the truth, but only in creating illegal activity."
Yesterday, SeaWorld chief executive Joel Manby said an internal investigation had confirmed McComb had been assigned to spy on Peta.
Manby, who made the revelation during a call with investors, did not divulge details about who had ordered the infiltration but said that no more such activity would take place.
He added he had "directed management to end the practice in which certain employees pose as animal rights activists", suggesting this was not an isolated case.
In a statement, the company said McComb "remains an employee of SeaWorld, has returned to work at SeaWorld in a different department and is no longer on administrative leave".
The company became the target of international outcry in 2013 after the documentary Blackfish examined the impact of captivity on its performing whales. High-profile musicians cancelled concerts at the parks and visitor numbers have dropped in the wake of the film's release.
The water park has since announced it will be phasing out its traditional killer whale shows in San Diego but the company is still struggling to turn around declining profits. Net income fell 20 per cent to $60.2m (£43.2m) in the first nine months of 2015, while the number of admissions continued to fall.