Seven months after being accused of spying by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), SeaWorld admitted Thursday that employees did pose as animal rights activists in order to gather intelligence on critics.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced that the company's board of directors has directed management to end the practice, and that the activity "was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers, and animals in the face of credible threats." PETA said it became suspicious of an activist after he was arrested with other protesters at the 2014 Rose Parade, but was released without charges, unlike the other demonstrators, The Orlando Sentinel reports. The employee worked at SeaWorld San Diego, and was placed on administrative leave, but has since returned to work.
SeaWorld has been under fire since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which suggests that a killer whale was so stressed from being in captivity that it caused the orca to drown a trainer in 2010. In a statement, the company said it recognizes "the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards. As always the security and well-being of our employees, customers, and animals remains at the forefront of our business practices." Catherine Garcia