SAN DIEGO – SeaWorld suspended an employee accused of posing for years as an animal-rights activist and trying to incite violence among peaceful protesters, company officials said.
CEO Joel Manby said in a statement Wednesday that SeaWorld Entertainment hired an independent outside counsel to investigate claims made this week by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA accused SeaWorld of using an employee to infiltrate its organization. The claims were "very concerning," Manby said.
"These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated," he said.
PETA said its own investigation revealed a human-resources worker at SeaWorld San Diego named Paul McComb incited protesters and posted incendiary comments on social media while masquerading as an animal-rights activist since 2012.
McComb, who allegedly used the alias Thomas Jones, was arrested along with other animal rights activists during a 2014 protest at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, PETA said.
Efforts to find a phone listing for McComb weren't successful Thursday.
SeaWorld did not name McComb but said the employee in question was placed on paid administrative leave pending findings of the investigation.
The investigator, Ron Olson of the firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, will be given "full access to our organization and people," Manby said.
SeaWorld has been under fire since the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish" suggested the treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. Park attendance dropped after the release of the documentary.