SeaWorld Worker Poses as PETA Employee

Employee placed on leave after allegations that he worked with PETA under a false identity.


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According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a SeaWorld Entertainment employee posed for years as an animal-rights activist under an alias, attempting to incite radical illegal activity and leak information about protest tactics to SeaWorld administration. The man, who identified himself as Thomas Jones to PETA, joined and organized protests against whale captivity across the country, such as holding anti-SeaWorld signs in front of SeaWorld’s float at New York’s 2013 Thanksgiving Day parade and outside its San Diego, CA., theme park. When Jones was arrested with other PETA volunteers at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, but was quickly released without being processed, PETA employees began investigations into his identity. Based on photographs and license plate numbers, the animal-rights group now believes the man is 28-year-old Paul McComb, a SeaWorld employee since 2008. Furthermore, neither of the addresses Jones provided when signing up for PETA check out: one is fake and the other belongs to Ric Marcelino, director of security at SeaWorld San Diego. Jones attempted to rally radical action in messages with other protesters and through social media: He Tweeted to ask if anyone wanted to help him “drain the new tanks at #seaworld” and organize “more direct action protest … get a little aggressive,” urging activists to “grab your pitch forks [sic] and torches!” in early July. In light of these allegations, SeaWorld has reportedly put an employee—they did not name McComb—on paid leave and hired an outside firm to lead an investigation. “The allegations made against a SeaWorld employee are very concerning,” SeaWorld Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said. “These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated.” PETA, which does not use fake names in its undercover investigations, is exploring available legal options. Katie Arth, media liaison of the animal organization, says these actions show that “SeaWorld is desperate: they sent in a clumsy spy and tried to infiltrate animal-advocate groups to distract from what’s really going on, which is that these wild animals are denied everything that is natural to them so SeaWorld can make money for circus shows.” SeaWorld stocks continue to fall, and celebrities such as One Direction’s Harry Styles have recently spoken out against the company’s cruel practices.