October 27, 2011
In a wild legal leap, PETA, the group that campaigns against cruelty to animals, is asking a judge to order the release of five orca whales owned by SeaWorld on the grounds that they are being enslaved in violation of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The lawsuit, which was to be filed with the US District Court in San Diego yesterday, is the most audacious attempt by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to shame SeaWorld into surrendering its cast of whales – Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises – which perform several times daily at theme parks in Florida and California.
It is a bold step because it implies that the 13th Amendment, which was adopted to outlaw human slavery in the United States after the Civil War, should be extended also to animals, a notion that some might find insulting. However, the PETA legal team, headed by Jeff Kerr, said it spent 18 months preparing the suit. There is nothing in the Amendment, the group notes, that explicitly limits its scope to humans.