SeaWorld suspends employee who PETA says tried to infiltrate its group

SeaWorld San Diego

Trainers direct orca killer whales at SeaWorld San Diego during a show at Shamu Stadium. The show is the top attraction at SeaWorld but remains controversial with animal-rights advocates. 

(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

SeaWorld San Diego has put an employee on paid leave amid allegations from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that he tried to infiltrate the animal-rights group and incite it to commit illegal acts.

“These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated,” SeaWorld Entertainment Chief Executive Joel Manby announced.

An outside law firm has been retained by SeaWorld to investigate allegations that PETA describes as “dirty tricks” meant to derail its campaign to force SeaWorld to stop using killer whales in entertainment shows.

“We will take all appropriate actions based on the results of the investigation to ensure that the integrity and values of the SeaWorld organization are upheld,” Manby said.


PETA said the SeaWorld employee, using a phony name, tried to get close to PETA employees and encourage them to perform illegal acts that could discredit the group with the public.

The SeaWorld employee was arrested at the 2014 Rose Parade during a PETA protest against SeaWorld and has left inflammatory messages on social media calling for more “direct action” against SeaWorld, according to PETA.

PETA has requested that the Pasadena police release records of the arrest.

After Manby’s announcement, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said her group believes that other SeaWorld employees have acted as spies and agents-provocateur in an attempt to undermine PETA’s credibility.


“PETA is currently looking at two more men who we believe were SeaWorld agents hired to infiltrate PETA as ‘volunteers’ and the list may grow,” Newkirk said. "...We are dealing with a SeaWorld infestation and it is likely to get much uglier.”

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