SeaWorld has told "management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists," company CEO Joel Manby said Thursday morning, per the Orlando Sentinel. He told an earnings call that the practice was ostensibly "to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the [face] of credible threats." At the center of what PETA has called a "corporate espionage campaign" is Paul McComb, a SeaWorld employee in San Diego who showed up at animal rights meetings and PETA protests as animal activist "Thomas Jones," Newsweek notes. As Jones, PETA says, McComb rallied against a SeaWorld float at NYC's 2013 Thanksgiving Day parade and even got taken away by cops at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., per Bloomberg.
But PETA members were suspicious of what the Dodo calls McComb's "inflammatory rhetoric" almost from the get-go. "There were a number of red flags relating to this individual," a PETA rep said last year. "Any genuine animal advocate is not on social media saying things like, 'Burn SeaWorld to the ground and drain the tanks.'" McComb was placed on leave by SeaWorld while the investigation took place, though he's since returned to work, Manby acknowledged. SeaWorld wouldn't say if anyone had been fired or disciplined as a result of the investigation, though the Dodo notes the company's VP of communications was fired in December for unspecified reasons after 25 years in SeaWorld's employ. After the call, which also announced a limp first-quarter outlook, SeaWorld shares fell by as much as 9%, Business Insider notes. (Read more SeaWorld stories.)