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SeaWorld Admits To Using Employees To Spy On Animal Rights Organizations

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The Shamu show at SeaWorld (Photo by Josh Hallet via the Creative Commons)
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SeaWorld admitted yesterday to having employees go under cover as animal rights activists to check out what their opponents were saying about them. SeaWorld issued a statement yesterday confirming that specific employees went under cover as animal rights activists to spy on the organizations, CNN reports. The statement says that this was done "in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of company employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats the company had received."

It's not clear what those threats, in particular, were. The statement also says that the company's Board of Directors has instructed management to stop this practice.

PETA previously accused Paul McComb, who works at SeaWorld San Diego, of posing as an activist for the organization.

PETA activist Ellen Ericsson said that McComb attended protests on a regular basis, and accusing him of spying on PETA, ABC 7 reports. PETA claimed via a statement that McComb used the name Thomas Jones and would 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."

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At that time, Manby issued a statement saying that PETA's allegations, "if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated."

McComb was put on administrative leave by SeaWorld, but now works in a different department, according to the statement. It is not clear what McComb's job was prior to his placement on administrative leave, and the statement says that the situation has been "handled internally."

SeaWorld San Diego has already agreed to end their killer whale show by 2017. This show will be replaced with an informative show that encourages conservation.

SeaWorld came under fire after the release 2013 documentary Blackfish, about captive whale Tilikum and the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau. The film suggested that orcas in captivity experienced a high level of stress, which can lead to deadly consequences.