February 8, 2012

PETA names plaintiffs in their suit against SeaWorld: Five orca whales

Back in October I covered the story of PETA's intent to sue SeaWorld under U.S. slavery laws. Well, it appears that they're going to be able to go through with it thanks to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller who is considering their complaint.

PETA has named five killer whales as plaintiffs in their lawsuit; they are making the case that the whales deserve the same constitutional protection from slavery as humans. The five wild-captured orca plaintiffs in question are Tilikum and Katina, at SeaWorld Orlando; and Kasatka, Corky, and Ulises, at SeaWorld San Diego.

This is the first time a U.S. court will hear legal arguments over whether animals should enjoy the same constitutional protections as humans. The lawsuit invokes the 13th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which abolished "slavery or involuntary servitude" in that country.

Unsurprisingly, SeaWorld is dismissing the case as waste of time and resources. Their lawyer has stated that, "Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the 'We the people'... when the Constitution was adopted." SeaWorld's fear and contention is that, if successful, the precident could have legal implications on not just how zoos and marine centers operate, but on such practices as police sniffer dogs who detect bombs and drugs.

PETA, on the other hand, argue that SeaWorld is coercing orca whales, forcing them to live in tanks and perform daily at their parks in California and Florida. My own personal experience and opinions mirror those of PETA's.

Experts believe that PETA will not win the suit. That said, the campaigners were pleased that the case has made it this far.

According to the lawyer who is representing the five whales, Jeffrey Kerr, "For the first time in our nation's history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here."

Hearing the arguments for about an hour, Judge Miller raised concerns over whether animals could be represented as plaintiffs in a lawsuit and said he will issue a ruling at a later date.

Stay tuned for more as this fascinating story unfolds.

No comments: