Jump to content
  TPR Home | Parks | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram 

News: PETA Files Suit Against SeaWorld

Recommended Posts

SAN DIEGO – A federal court is being asked to grant constitutional rights to five killer whales who perform at marine parks -- an unprecedented and perhaps quixotic legal action that is nonetheless likely to stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America's law schools over expansion of animal rights.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld parks of keeping five star-performer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. SeaWorld depicted the suit as baseless.


The chances of the suit succeeding are slim, according to legal experts not involved in the case; any judge who hews to the original intent of the authors of the amendment is unlikely to find that they wanted to protect animals. But PETA relishes engaging in the court of public opinion, as evidenced by its provocative anti-fur and pro-vegan campaigns.


The suit, which PETA says it will file Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, hinges on the fact that the 13th Amendment, while prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, does not specify that only humans can be victims.


Jeff Kerr, PETA's general counsel, says his five-member legal team -- which spent 18 months preparing the case -- believes it's the first federal court suit seeking constitutional rights for members of an animal species.


The plaintiffs are the five orcas, Tilikum and Katina based at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., and Corky, Kasatka and Ulises at SeaWorld San Diego. Tilikum, a six-ton male, made national news in February 2010 when he grabbed a trainer at the close of a performance and dragged her underwater until she drowned.


Captured nearly 30 years ago off Iceland, Tilikum has enormous value as a stud and has fathered many of the calves born at SeaWorld parks.


The lawsuit asks the court to order the orcas released to the custody of a legal guardian who would find a "suitable habitat" for them.


"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," said Kerr. "The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away."


SeaWorld said any effort to extend the 13th Amendment's protections beyond humans "is baseless and in many ways offensive."


"SeaWorld is among the world's most respected zoological institutions," the company said. "There is no higher priority than the welfare of the animals entrusted to our care and no facility sets higher standards in husbandry, veterinary care and enrichment."


The statement outlined the many laws and regulations SeaWorld is obliged to follow, touted the company's global efforts to promote conservation of marine mammals, and said the orcas' performances help give the public a better appreciation and understanding of these animals.


SeaWorld and other U.S. marine parks are governed by the Marine Mammals Protection Act, which allows public displays of the creatures if permits are obtained and the facility offers and education/conservation programs for the public.


Overall, under prevailing U.S. legal doctrine, animals under human control are considered property, not entities with legal standing of their own. They are afforded some protections through animal-cruelty laws, endangered-species regulations and the federal Animal Welfare Act, but are not endowed with a distinct set of rights.


However, the field of animal law has evolved steadily, with courses taught at scores of law schools. Many prominent lawyers and academics have joined in serious discussion about expanding animal rights.


Rutgers University law professor Gary Francione, for example, contends that animals deserve the fundamental right to not be treated as property. Law professor David Favre of Michigan State University has proposed a new legal category called "living property" as a step toward providing rights for some animals.


Favre was skeptical that litigation seeking to apply the 13th Amendment to animals would prevail.


"The court will most likely not even get to the merits of the case, and find that the plaintiffs do not have standing to file the lawsuit at all," he said by email. "I also think a court would not be predisposed to open up that box with fully unknown consequences."


Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who in past writings has proposed extending legal standing to chimpanzees, also expressed doubt that the courts were ready to apply the 13th Amendment to animals. But he welcomed the PETA lawsuit as a potentially valuable catalyst for "national reflection and deliberation" about humans' treatment of animals.


"People may well look back at this lawsuit and see in it a perceptive glimpse into a future of greater compassion for species other than our own," Tribe wrote in an email.


Tribe noted that some Americans might find it bizarre or insulting to equate any treatment of animals to the sufferings of human slavery. But he argued that the 13th Amendment was written broadly, to address unforeseen circumstances, and could legitimately be applied to animals.


An African-American constitutional expert, Nicholas Johnson of Fordham University School of Law, said he could understand why some blacks might be insulted by the lawsuit, but didn't share that reaction: "I'm more entertained by it in the legal context than I am offended by it."


PETA addressed this issue in the suit, noting that repeated Supreme Court rulings have applied the 13th Amendment to many forms of involuntary servitude beyond the type of slavery that existed during the Civil War.


"The historical context is undeniable," said Jeff Kerr, the PETA lawyer. "But that's not what this case is about. It's about the orcas in their own right, not whether they are or aren't similar to humans."


The five orcas are represented in the case by PETA and four individuals: Ric O'Barry, a longtime orca and dolphin trainer; Ingrid Visser, a New Zealand marine biologist who has studied orcas extensively; Howard Garrett, founder of the Orca Network, an advocacy group in Washington State; and Samantha Berg, a former orca trainer at SeaWorld Orlando.


The lawsuit details the distinctive traits of orcas, the largest species within the dolphin family, including their sophisticated problem-solving and communicative abilities and their formation of complex communities.


The suit alleges that captivity in the "barren tanks" of a marine park suppresses the orcas' abilities and relationships, and subjects them to stress. This sometimes leads to instances where the orcas injure themselves, other orcas or humans that interact with them, according to the suit.


Naomi Rose, the Humane Society's marine mammal biologist, said there's a growing body of research suggesting that whales, dolphins and porpoises have the cognitive sophistication of 3-to-4-year-old human children.


As for the orcas at SeaWorld, she said, "They don't seem to adapt to captivity. I would say they're miserable."


At SeaWorld San Diego, visitors are shown a film touting the park's rescue efforts that have saved thousands of sea creatures. During the main performance, trainers point out how much the orcas are similar to humans: The babies cry before moving on to babbling and finally imitating the crackling sounds of the adults' voices.


Jenny Raymond, 47, who was visiting from Switzerland, said she was delighted by the show and does not buy the argument that the orcas are slave laborers.


"I think they are in better conditions here than in the wild," she said.



Edited by chadster
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 77
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Case closed! The US Constitution was written for the PEOPLE!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PETA is all about the publicity--they've been quite clear on this in the past. This suit has no standing at all.


But if we can grant whales the same "citizen" status as people, can the whales be held accountable for "crimes"? Is a whale competent enough to participate in its own defense?

Edited by cfc
Link to comment
Share on other sites

But if we can grant whales the same "citizen" status as people, can the whales be held accountable for "crimes"? Is a whale competent enough to participate in its own defense?


On some level, Tilikum being put in a show trial for first degree murder and being executed in a giant electric chair would be sorta hilarious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Random thoughts: Is PETA really expecting an orca whale to get up on the stand to testify? Will PETA file a lawsuit against all the zoos in the US? How about a lawsuit against other theme parks that house animals like Dollywood or Busch Garden's properties?


I get what PETA is trying to do, I'm not a fan of cruelty towards animals either. But, filing a lawsuit is a little ridiculous.


This has to be an article from The Onion! If this is serious, holy crap!


I'm hoping this is from the Onion too. I've never heard anything like this before.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peta very often makes a joke of itself, this is right on par for them. Where could it possibly end for Peta?


Seaworld in the past has done some things I am not good with but I think the Seaworld of today serves a better good. Peta just serves there coffers and there big mouths. Tilikum has fathered and grandfathered many whale calves, this is why they don't capture anymore. He does more good where he is but of course those jack asses couldn't agree to that. Tilikum has provided a future for Seaworld and Seaworld has become a good steward of the seas. I have first hand seen them riverside saving manatees entangled in fishing line and many turtle recues for the same and for tumors. They also have hatchery plans for Florida and one existing in California. Ever wonder whats behind the walls at Seaworld? Many pools with rescued animals that if possible will be released. Tilikum pays for all of that and a lot more that most people will never know about.


I wonder if Peta considered the fact that removal of Tilikum and the others would be captures? It would seperate the offspring from there parents and grandparents. This is the only life and the only social group they have ever known.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm hoping this is from the Onion too. I've never heard anything like this before.


Well, it is Fox...close enough


That is an unfair and unbalanced post.


The liberal press in reporting this, also.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good to see they wasted 18 months of their lives preparing this case. I would pay good money to see members of PETA get mauled by the whales, bears, big cats, and all the other animals they're giving human rights to, all choreographed to those awful Sarah McLachlan songs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's official....


The animal rights group PETA filed their official complaint against SeaWorld Inc. early Wednesday morning for allegedly violating the thirteenth amendment rights of orca whales.


The official complaint submitted to the US District Court for Southern California lists five SeaWorld orcas as collective plaintiffs in the case, according to the complaint. Three of those whales live in the San Diego SeaWorld park. The other two live in the Orlando location.



"The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves," said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk in a statement.


PETA alleges that the two SeaWorld locations restrained and kept the whales in “constant involuntary physical confinement,” with no means to escape. The complaint also accuses SeaWorld of depriving the whales of “their ability to live in a manner of their choosing,” and for “intentionally subjugating” the whales’ “wills, desires, and/or natural drives and needs of [seaWorld Inc.’s] own will and whims.”


A spokesperson for SeaWorld Inc. stated that the claims were “baseless and offensive.” The statement added that any performances are intended to educate the public and promote conservation of marine animals.


"PETA has once again showed that it prefers publicity stunts to the hard work of caring for, rescuing and helping animals," the statement said.


PETA’s complaint lists a number of qualities that orca whales possess, such as their problem-solving abilities and understanding of cooperative networks. The orcas are capable of displaying “physiological and behavioral indicators of stress and trauma,” the complaint reads, and can communicate the stress of living in captivity:


“[seaWorld’s] confinement of [the orcas] suppresses [the orcas’] cultural traditions and deprives them of the ability to make conscious choices and of the environmental enrichment.”


Under current law, animals are still considered property, according to the Associated Press.


Should the PETA case against SeaWorld succeed, it could potentially bring other cases to zoological institutions that house animals.


Public relations director for the San Diego Zoo Christina Simmons said such a case would cause concern for the preservation of animals.


“We would be concerned with anything that would prevent us with our work to conserve species,” said Christina Simmons, the San Diego zoo public relations director.


Simmons also said PETA could have a different agenda.


“We have to look to the motives of the organization,” she said.


The San Diego Zoo participates in a number of conservation efforts and animal preservation organizations, and Simmons said the zoo maintains the animals in the best situation possible.


“There’s a long list of species that would no longer be around if they hadn’t been in zoological organizations,” she said.



Source: PETA Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Orcas | NBC San Diego


NBC San Diego

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is going nowhere and PETA knows it. There is fairly famous case law (mentioned in the article) which essentially says that animals don't have the legal right to sue in the US. As far as I know every first year law student reads that case and learns that animals don't have standing. So essentially this case is going to be nothing more than a huge waste of time. In fact if I was the attorney for sea world I would try to hit the attorneys with sanctions for bringing a frivolous suit.


With that said a small part of me wishes this would get to the merits of the case. I think it would be interesting just to see what logic the lawyers would use and how the court would decide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use https://themeparkreview.com/forum/topic/116-terms-of-service-please-read/