The SeaWorld employee suspended last week for allegedly infiltrating animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) also targeted events linked to the 2013 Seaworld documentary Blackfish, according to contributors to the film.
The employee, Paul McComb, attended meetings of orca researchers and former SeaWorld trainers while pretending to be a killer whale conservationist under an assumed name, ex-trainers say.
Last week Peta released photographs of McComb, a SeaWorld human resources employee since 2008, who had been appearing at protests as “Thomas Jones”.
SeaWorld subsequently suspended McComb and issued a statement saying the company would look into the allegations that McComb had been encouraging protesters to break the law.
Separately, Peta said it was investigating the possibility that between three to five other people who had acted as supporters may have been operating undercover in some capacity for the theme park, having shown similar behaviour to McComb.
Dr Jeffrey Ventre, who worked as a SeaWorld trainer in the early 1990s but has since become a vocal critic of keeping orcas in captivity, claimed: “It’s bigger than Peta. The spy ring is much more sophisticated.”
Ventre, who appeared in Blackfish, said McComb had shadowed people involved with the CNN Films documentary, recording presentations that were meant to be closed door.
He revealed photographs of a man whom he identified as McComb at a meeting of journalists, ex-trainers and conservationists on Washington’s San Juan Island in July 2014. One of the photographs included an alleged McComb on a boat with Blackfish cast members and journalists. He also revealed a screenshot of a Facebook post by a “Tom Jones” trying to find information about the forthcoming documentary, appearing to show McComb was active as far back as 2012.
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