FEBRUARY 08, 2012
Should animals get the same constitutional protection against slavery as humans? That’s what a federal judge in California will decide after hearing arguments this week from a leftwing animal rights group that claims an amusement park treats captured killer whales like slaves.
It marks the first time in U.S. history that a federal court considers whether the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery between humans, applies to animals. In this case the plaintiffs are five orcas (Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky) living in tanks at Sea World in San Diego California and Orlando Florida. They perform in daily shows at the parks on opposite coasts of the country.
But the whales’ attorneys from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claim they are “incarcerated” and treated like slaves because they’re forced to live in tanks and perform in shows. This amounts to slavery, according to the orcas’ PETA lawyer, Jeff Kerr. “It’s a new frontier in civil rights,” Kerr said. “Slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender, or ethnicity. Coercion, degradation, and subjugation characterize slavery, and these orcas have endured all three.”
That’s a whale of a statement! Sea World’s attorney said PETA is wasting the court’s time since the case defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery only between humans. “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’ … when the Constitution was adopted,” he told the judge.
Arguments went on for an hour and the judge didn’t indicate when he would rule, only that it would be at a later date. The whales’ attorney maintained a steady level of passion, calling it a historic day. “ 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.”
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