Peta, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has launched a lawsuit against SeaWorld in which five killer whales have been named as the plaintiffs. The court case argues that they deserve the same constitutional protection from slavery as humans.
The five orca plaintiffs, all captured in the wild, are named as Tilikum and Katina, from SeaWorld Orlando, and Kasatka, Corky and Ulises, who are from SeaWorld San Diego.
Tilikum has been in the media before – he drowned his trainer before shocked spectators in February 2010, which prompted the ban on the Florida park’s employees being allowed in the water to perform tricks with their orcas.
Tilikum has also been linked to two other deaths.
Jeffrey Kerr, the lawyer representing the five whales:
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.
SeaWorld’s legal team has taken the route that the case was just a waste of time and valuable resources that could be better spent.
Their lawyer, Theodore Shaw, told a court in San Diego:
Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’, when the Constitution was adopted.
US District Judge Jeffrey Miller had trepidations over whether animals could actually be represented as plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
However, Peta maintains the whales are treated like slaves because they are forced to live in tanks and perform on a daily basis at the SeaWorld parks in California and Florida.
The lawsuit is seeking to make use of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished “slavery or involuntary servitude” in the US, but it remains unclear whether this is applicable to animals, and thus many feel it’s unlikely the whales will win their case, and their freedom.
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