SeaWorld admits to sending a worker to infiltrate an animal rights group

CEO Joel Manby said he will no longer use such practices against opponents   

SeaWorld had admitted that it sent its own employees to spy on an animal rights group that opposed the company’s building of a theme park.

SeaWorld Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said on Thursday that the company will no longer use such practices to spy on opponents, as reported by Associated Press.

Mr Manby added that he is hiring a third party to review its security practices.

SeaWorld worker in San Diego Paul McComb was suspended last summer after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused him of pretending to be an activist and trying to incite violence among peaceful protestors.

The company confirmed to AP that Mr McComb is still employed by the company.

A statement from PETA Vice Executive Tracy Reiman 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 dolphin prisons. The tawdry orca sideshows and despicable spying tactics are sinking SeaWorld's ship."

The San Diego park told a local publication that it is on track to open in the late spring of 2017. Mr Manby reveled recently that he was putting on hold a $100 million plan to double the volume of the San Diego park’s orca whale tanks and would divert a large portion of that budget to a “marketable attraction”.

The California Coastal Commission voted last year to bar future captive breeding of orcas as a condition for approval of the plan. SeaWorld filed a lawsuit against the ruling, challenging the Commission’s authority to regulate the care and breeding of the whales, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

PETA has accused employees at SeaWorld of various cruelties, including masturbating orca whales and artificially inseminating them to produce offspring.

On its website the group accused SeaWorld as contributing to a “billion-dollar industry built on the suffering of intelligent, social beings who are denied everything that is natural and important to them”.

Trouble began for the company after reports started circulating of the unethical treatment of its sea creatures.

Mr Manby announced last Friday that he would be replacing several of its executives as the company faces financial issues, dropping stock prices and lower attendance at its venues.

It has announced new attractions, including a submarine ride called the Ocean Explorer, will be built at the park to combat flagging visitor numbers.

A documentary called Blackfish in 2013 exposed SeaWorld’s treatment of the animals, and showed how the whales were torn away from their families, were deprived of food for training purposes and kept in tiny enclosures. 

Allegations of mistreatment are inaccurate, according to SeaWorld park officials, as reported by the Times of San Diego.

Maltreatment of the animals, campaigners have argued, led to the death of one trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, who was mauled in 2010 in Florida by an orca called Tilikum. Ms Brancheau’s death was the third death caused by the same whale since 1991. The whale was returned to perform in 2011.

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