PETA may have lost its case against SeaWorld, but it marks an important step forward in the struggle to recognize highly sapient animals as persons. This is not going to happen overnight, and it's through cases like these that the idea of nonhuman persons will be normalized in society.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller recently dismissed the lawsuit that sought constitutional protection against alleged slavery of orcas. But PETA isn't backing down yet.
"We're going to continue to pursue every available avenue to fight for these animals," said Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA. "We're looking at all options."
The lawsuit filed by PETA last October sought constitutional protection against slavery for three orca whales in San Diego and two in Orlando. The suit claimed that SeaWorld is violating the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by holding whales in captivity.
Judge Miller took the case under advisement following a hearing on February 7. Ultimately he noted animals are not people, and dismissed the case the next day. "As 'slavery' and 'involuntary servitude' are uniquely human activities, as those terms have been historically and contemporaneously applied, there is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans," Miller wrote in his ruling.
As frustrating as it is to hear Miller say that animals are not people, it's slightly encouraging to even hear this articulated in the court room. We're passed the "first they ignore you" phase, and they're engaging in the conversation. The next step, I predict, will be to contest this exact clam as articulated by Miller.
PETA does not plan to give up their fight. The group argues the orcas are slaves who would normally swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild but instead are contained in small concrete tanks at SeaWorld where they swim in circles.
Kerr said PETA plans to regroup and determine their next plan of action, but did not offer specifics. He noted that there has been overwhelming media attention to the case and that PETA has received positive public feedback.