SeaWorld Orcas Case Dismissed, But PETA Continues To Fight

A SeaWorld show | Photo: arnolddeleon/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A federal judge has dismissed an unprecedented lawsuit that sought constitutional protection against alleged slavery of orcas, but the plaintiff, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (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, in an interview. "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 alleged SeaWorld violates the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by holding whales in captivity.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller took the case under advisement following a hearing on Feb. 7. Ultimately he noted animals are not people, and dismissed the case on Feb. 8.

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"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.

PETA, however, does not plan to give up their fight. The group argues the orcas (also known as killer whales) 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 said, however, that there has been overwhelming media attention to the case and that PETA has received positive public feedback.

PETA's legal team in the orcas case was led by Kerr and civil rights attorney Philip Hirschkop.

Hirschkop argued and won a landmark case, Loving v. Virginia, which declared that laws that ban interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" lampooned PETA's comparison of orcas in SeaWorld to human slavery. Comedian Wyatt Cenac spoke to Lisa Lange, senior vice president of communications at PETA, comparing her having a dog as a pet to using orcas for entertainment.

"We participated in the segment, they have a sense of a humor," Kerr said about the segment. "What came out of that, most directly, is the plight of the orcas."

You can watch the segment below.

About the Author

I am a journalist and researcher, and have written numerous research and investigative pieces. My work has been published with several notable organizations, including Annenberg Digital News, CAMERA, KCET, the Middle East Forum, P...
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I think like so many other issues out there, before you make any progress on issues like this you have to changes minds before you can expect court victories. I've never thought the animal "slavery" angle was a good one to take because I don't think it's very persuasive to the average American.