SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby recently admitted that the company infiltrated animal rights groups by sending in employees to spy on activists.
The employees would pose as activists for the purpose of collecting information and reporting back to the company.
“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,” Manby said after admitting that he had his employees spy on activists.
After the admission was made, an official press release was published through an official SeaWorld website.
The statement read in part:
During its earnings call today, SeaWorld announced that its Board of Directors is taking steps to strengthen the company’s security and risk management policies and controls. 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. The Board also has directed the company’s management team to strengthen oversight and controls to guide operations and security practices. SeaWorld has retained Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC to evaluate current controls and develop new policies and standards to ensure best practices company-wide.
This operation was exposed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who identified one of the spies and accused him of being an impostor. According to a complaint filed by the organization SeaWorld employee Paul T. McComb posed as an activist under the name “Thomas Jones.” The complaint said that he “work[ed] his way into a network of San Diego-area activists concerned with the company’s ongoing orca captivity and breeding programs.”
Lindsay Rajt, spokesperson for PETA said that after a while it became obvious that “Thomas” was not who he said he was.
“There were a number of red flags relating to this individual. Any genuine animal advocate is not on social media saying things like, ‘Burn SeaWorld to the ground and drain the tanks,‘” Rajt said.
However, despite these recent findings the employee in question still has a job with SeaWorld.
SeaWorld contends that their parks are more like veterinary clinics than zoos, because according to the company, they nurse sick animals back to health and keep them in captivity because they would not be able to survive on their own. However, these claims are mostly rejected by animal rights activists.
For the past few years, SeaWorld has been under heavy scrutiny, due to criticism from animal rights activist who say that they mistreat the whales and dolphins that they have in captivity. The theme park has been at the center of controversy since the 2013 release of the documentary “Blackfish”, which exposed the inhumane treatment of its animals.
In figures released earlier this year, it was shown that SeaWorld’s income dropped from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015, and attendance dropped by more than 100,000 tickets.