Soapboxes and Killer Whales….(or, PETA vs. Sea World)

So…considering that I am a legal nerd (law school kind of does this to you) and a huge animal lover and activist (a heart kind of does, or should do, this to you), this story/lawsuit really peaks my interest.  Did you hear about PETA‘s unprecedented (never argued) and potentially landmark action against Sea WorldPETA is filing suit against Sea World for a constitutional violation of the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery and asking the Federal court to grant constitutional rights to the five killer whales that perform at Sea World’s Orlando, FL and San Diego, CA parks.  They are claiming that Sea World keeps the whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment’s slavery ban.  Obviously PETA is contending that this ban on slavery should apply to animals as well as people and harks on the fact that the 13th Amendment, while prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, does not specify that only humans can be victims.  With the plaintiffs being the 5 killer whales, this is the first federal court suit seeking constitutional rights for members of an animal species.
Don’t let the “smile” fool you.  You’re crazy if you think this beautiful creature would rather be in this tank over the ocean.
I am very torn about this suit.  Obviously my instinct is to get on my soapbox and praise PETA for this bold move.  I am completely and utterly opposed to any sort of animal captivity that forces an animal to be in a condition other than their natural and intended habitat.  I do understand and support certain situations where it is in the animal’s best interest to be in captivity, such as endangered or injured animals, but I do not support situations where animals are in habitats that are too small, unnatural and unsafe.  I am even more against animals being used for entertainment, including the killer whales at Sea World.  I’m pretty clear in my position that animals should not regarded as things to dominate, but as living beings with feelings, families, intellect, and emotions.  The killer whales at Sea World are no exception and I would love nothing more than for them to be released in to the wild where they belong. 
The bent dorsal fin makes me so sad every time I see one.
However, I am, in general, opposed to messing with the plain language of the Constitution and efforts to “expand” the intent.  Although the 13th Amendment does does not provide reference to “person” or any specific class of victims, the likely intent behind the passing of the 13th Amendment was to end the sufferings of human slavery, specifically to abolish slavery of African Americans.  PETA is attempting to show that the intent was to abolish all slavery, in all forms, and for all species alike.  Per PETA’s General Counsel, “Slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on gender, race, or religion….By any definition, these orcas are slaves — kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that’s natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld’s profit….”
Am I the only nerdy person who is completely enthralled and impressed by this action?  What do yall think??

Here are a couple good articles talking about the suit…

One thought on “Soapboxes and Killer Whales….(or, PETA vs. Sea World)

  1. WOW! I have not heard about this yet! I am actually very impressed with PETA for taking this view point, mostly because it makes you question the definition of slavery and where it should begin or end or what it should include. Brilliant argument, not sure how far they will get, but I love pushing the envelope! Then another question becomes should all animals be freed and are our pets slaves? Interesting…


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