PETA sues SeaWorld for “enslaving” killer whales

posted at 1:20 pm on February 8, 2012 by Tina Korbe

If you’ve ever wanted to watch killer whales perform for your benefit, book your trip to SeaWorld now! If the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has its way, those poor whale slaves won’t entertain tourists much longer …

This story serves up too many fantastic quotes to ignore. Like one commenter on the case, I’m not surprised; it is PETA we’re talking about, after all. Yet, somehow, they always manage to be more over-the-top than before. The organization sincerely claims that SeaWorld is in violation of the 13th amendment’s ban on slavery because it holds five orcas — Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky — at its parks in Orlando, Fla. and San Diego against their will. How they know that the whales don’t want to be SeaWorld stars I’m not sure — it might just be a killer whale’s dream — but, to give PETA the benefit of the doubt, I suppose the fact that Tilikum killed a SeaWorld trainer in 2010 might be an indication the animal is unhappy.

At any rate, here’s Jeff Kerr, the PETA lawyer who is representing the five orca plaintiffs, explaining to San Diego News why this case is actually of monumental importance:

“[The suit] eradicates slavery in all forms and slavery should not depend upon the species of the slave anymore than it depends upon gender, race or ethnicity of the slave,” said Kerr.

PETA will argue that if the orcas can suffer from enslavement, they should be protected from it.

“They were ripped from their homes and families, with whom they would have spent their entire lives,” said Kerr. “They’re held in the equivalent of concrete bathtubs. They’re denied everything natural to them… They’re forced to perform for human amusement and they’ve been turned into virtual breeding machines. By any reasonable definition, they’re slaves.”

Here he is again in The Daily Mail:

‘This case is on the next frontier of civil rights,’ said Mr Kerr, representing the five orcas. …

Brushing animals off as property is the same argument that was used against African-Americans and women before their constitutional rights were protected, PETA says. …

‘This is an historic day,’ Kerr said. ‘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.’

Eh, I suppose I’m OK with this if Kerr can manage to find a jury of the orcas’ peers to decide the case, as Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested last night on The O’Reilly Factor.

It’s easy to laugh this story off, but it’s actually deeply disturbing. The constitutional claim is ridiculous: All the founding documents are clearly written by and for persons. The preamble of the Constitution starts with “we the people,” and the Declaration says, to secure rights, governments are instituted among “men.” It’s highly, highly insulting to those persons whose personal dignity was denied by slavery to suggest that animals-as-property is the same argument as persons-as-property. For that matter, it’s highly insulting to the babies whose personal dignity is denied by abortion to suggest these whales need to be fought for in court. This case likely won’t go anywhere, but that a judge has to hear and decide it in the first place is an enormous waste of time and taxpayer money — and troublingly indicative of how relativistic a society we’ve become.

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