In a damning revelation, amusement park operator SeaWorld, on Thursday, admitted to have sent its employees to pose as animal rights activists to spy on its critics. According to a report by USA Today, SeaWorld admitted to have used more than one spy to check the activities of animal rights activists opposed to them. The admission by SeaWorld came days after the higher management of the company saw a significant shakeup with several executives leaving the company, including Sea World’s chief parks operations officer, chief zoological officer, and the director of SeaWorld, San Antonio.
Following the admission, SeaWorld also confirmed that it would be ending such practices. In fact, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby earlier today told analysts on a conference call that the board has “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees pose as animal rights activists.”
Incidentally, PETA (People For Ethical the Treatment of Animals) had only last year accused a SeaWorld park worker from the San Diego park of spying on them. PETA revealed the employee to be an individual named Paul McComb who, incidentally, still works there. In a statement issued by SeaWorld, Joel Manby added that Mr. McComb was subsequently “transferred to another department” and that he was placed on a period of administrative leave following which he was allowed to come back to work.
According to Bloomberg, McComb had masqueraded as a PETA activist for several years and was part of several PETA protests. He was also reportedly arrested for participating in an anti-SeaWorld protest back in 2014.
Joel Manby further adds,
“All personnel matters pertaining to those involved have been handled internally. 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 remains at the forefront of our business practices.”
Following the admission of spying by SeaWorld, PETA issued a separate statement which read,
“SeaWorld’s latest report confirms not only that the company has employed more than one spy to infiltrate and agitate at PETA but also that it values its spies more highly than the executives who have had their heads chopped off in droves, as at least one of the spies is still working at the company. SeaWorld’s finances continue to flop as animals continue to be found dead in its tiny tanks, with one death every single month since November. If SeaWorld had business savvy or common sense, it would modernize its business with coastal sanctuaries and virtual-reality displays instead of building more roller coasters and dolphin prisons.”
PETA also talked about Paul McComb and said,
“SeaWorld’s refusal to fire McComb shows that it condones corporate spying”.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld has partnered with consultancy services company Freeh Group International Solutions to “evaluate current controls and develop new policies and standards to ensure best practices company-wide.” It hopes to benefit from this partnership by improving its image in the minds of the general public.
This comes even as SeaWorld stocks plummeted by over 9 percent on Thursday following the admission. The company also had a very placid year with revenues standing still at $1.37 billion. The net income fell 1.6 percent and stood at 49.1 million. The company is also in a massive bid to revamp its image after the release of a documentary that severely dented SeaWorld’s reputation.
CEO Joel Manby admits that SeaWorld has a “bumpy road” ahead. However, he is confident that his company is making progress.
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