The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) says it is considering legal action over claims that a SeaWorld employee infiltrated its ranks and attempted to incite other activists into “illegal and violent activity”.
The man, known within Peta as Thomas Jones, is believed to have signed on as a volunteer activist in 2012. But now the group claims Mr Jones, who called on fellow campaigners to “burn [SeaWorld] to the ground”, is in fact Paul McComb, whose online CV shows he has been employed by the controversial San Diego sea-life park since 2010.
As Mr Jones, he joined several Peta protests against SeaWorld in 2013 and 2014, including at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Lisa Lange, a Peta spokesperson in Los Angeles, said she was arrested with Mr Jones at the Rose Parade, but he was quickly released without charge, and his name did not appear on arrest sheets. “That’s when it started to really smell bad to us,” she said.
In June, Peta members traced Jones’s car registration to Mr McComb, and discovered that one of the addresses he gave when joining the group was a PO box registered to SeaWorld San Diego’s director of security. This week, Peta released a photograph of Mr Jones alongside one of Mr McComb, found on social media. The images appear to be of the same man.
SeaWorld declined to answer specific questions about Peta’s claims or to deny Mr Jones and Mr McComb are the same person. In a statement, the company’s spokesman Fred Jacobs said: “We are focused on the safety of our team members, guests and animals and beyond that we do not comment on our security operations. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, especially as animal rights groups have become increasingly extreme in their rhetoric and tactics.”
Ms Lange responded that it was Mr Jones who had resorted to “incendiary” rhetoric, not other Peta members. He allegedly used social media to call on fellow protesters to “get a little aggressive” and “grab your pitchforks and torches”. Ms Lange said: “It’s rather ironic that the only threats came from their own person, encouraging others to take violent action against SeaWorld.”
In his statement, Mr Jacobs accused Peta itself of recruiting animal rights activists to infiltrate companies such as SeaWorld, pointing to a recent Peta job advertisement for an undercover investigator “to conduct field investigations in Peta’s focus areas, including the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment.”
SeaWorld, which has 11 parks across the US, saw its stock fall by 50 per cent in the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which accused the company of systematically mistreating its orcas.Reuse content