SeaWorld has admitted to sending employees to infiltrate and spy on animal welfare groups.
Management has been directed to "end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists," SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said in an investor relations call on Thursday, reading from a statement expected to be released later today.
"This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats," the statement reads.
SeaWorld was first accused of using spies on animal welfare groups last July, when PETA reported that Paul T. McCombe, a human resources employee at SeaWorld San Diego, had been using a false identity to work his way into a network of San Diego-area activists concerned with the company's ongoing orca captivity and breeding programs.
McCombe, using the alias Thomas Jones, was fond of inflammatory rhetoric and appeared to be trying to incite the activists to violence. "It's time for Direct [sic] action against #seaworld," one tweet read. "I need to find a way to personal [sic] stop them. I will be coming…"
"There were a number of red flags relating to this individual," Lindsay Rajt, spokesperson for PETA, told The Dodo at the time. "Any genuine animal advocate is not on social media saying things like, 'Burn SeaWorld to the ground and drain the tanks.'"
"These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated," SeaWorld said at the time.
In Thursday's statement, SeaWorld will confirm the spy program, and announce that McCombe, who had been placed on administrative leave, remains an employee of SeaWorld and has returned to work in a different department.
It also says that the issue has been dealt with internally.
In December, SeaWorld quietly fired Fred Jacobs, their vice president of corporate communications, after 25 years with the company. It's unclear if his removal was related to the spying incident.
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