SeaWorld Admits to Spying on Activists – Meanwhile, It’s Stock Is Down Nearly 10%

by on February 26, 2016 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights

PETA says this photo of 2014 Rose Parade arrest shows Paul McComb of SeaWorld, who went by Thomas Jones. (Via Times of San Diego)

PETA says this photo of 2014 Rose Parade arrest shows Paul McComb of SeaWorld, who went by Thomas Jones. (Via Times of San Diego)

SeaWorld has now admitted for the very first time, that some of its employees spied on animal rights groups while they posed as activists.  This admission is 7 months after PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – accused SeaWorld of having one of its San Diego HR employees pose as an activist, attend protests and then make outrageous comments on social media.

Meanwhile, could it be that the big story is actually that SeaWorld’s stocks have fallen nearly 10%? It’s 4th-quarter earnings report, released Thursday, February 25th, stated that its stocks were down 9.2%. The company’s admission here was that attendance for the first quarter this year was down.

One business journal reported :

shares of SeaWorld were crashing Thursday morning falling as much as 9% after the company announced a weak outlook for the first quarter.Business Insider

Months ago, PETA accused SeaWorld of sending one of its employees, a Paul McComb, to its demonstrations, posing as an activist named Thomas Jones. When Jones was released without charges, after being separated from the rest of a group of protesters who had been arrested and charged at the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 2014, members of PETA grew suspicious of him.

In response, SeaWorld hired a law firm to investigate the allegations last July 2015.  At first, management suspended McComb, but now he’s back working somewhere with the company.

The revelations came when Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby read a statement while speaking with analysts, that SeaWorld’s board of directors had:

“directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal-welfare activists.”

Of course, immediately after this admission, came the justification. Manby then read:

“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.”

Manby also stated:

 “ … all personnel matters pertaining to those involved had been handled internally” and that McComb “remains an employee of SeaWorld and has returned to work at SeaWorld in a different department and is no longer on administrative leave…”

Doug Porter, over at our associated online journal, the San Diego Free Press, wasn’t fooled:

Forgive me if I don’t seem all that excited about SeaWorld CEO Joe Manby’s admission about SeaWorld employees posing as animal rights activists in order to spy on opponents. And their promise not to do it anymore.

We already knew about Paul T. McCombe, using the alias Thomas Jones, the guy who was fond of inflammatory rhetoric and tried to incite PETA activists to violence. His activities and the high probability that more of his ilk were lurking in the shadows was reported in the Union-Tribune in the summer of 2015….

The press has largely taken the bait reporting on this disclosure over the real news, namely that SeaWorld had just posted an adjusted loss of $9.6 million, or 11 cents per share.  Wall Street wasn’t fooled by the ‘news’ “,

and then Porter quotes from Business Insider.

This is another setback for a company that has been dogged for the past few years by concerns over treatment of its signature orca whales, stemming from a CNN documentary “Blackfish” and peaking after pop singer Harry Styles of boy band One Direction called for a boycott of SeaWorld parks.

Over this time frame, the company has endured a drop in attendance, profits, and most recently a court order in California that it is no longer allowed to breed the orcas.

PETA also released a statement:

“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,”

Back in April 2015, Doug Porter reported on other “dirty tricks” that SeaWorld operatives were involved in, describing SeaWorld’s nefarious antics as “stealing a page from Scientology’s playbook.”



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

GML February 26, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Doesn’t sound like SeaWorld did anything illegal by “spying” on PETA. PETA complaining about it is the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Granted I still feel like SeaWorld does far more good for our oceans/animals than bad.


Marc Snelling February 27, 2016 at 6:40 am

It isn’t spying its inciting and misdirecting. Community groups in San Diego know first-hand SeaWorld’s underhanded tactics. SeaWorld cant have it both ways they can’t be a cutthroat corporation and market themselves as family friendly animal saviors. This is an image problem not a legal problem. SeaWorld execs wouldn’t have even admitted to this if they weren’t forced into it. The more SeaWorld attacks the more people see how they operate, become disgusted and never spend money there again.


tj February 28, 2016 at 7:02 am

enjoy your right to speak your mind …while you can…


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