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SeaWorld Sued for Violation of 13th Amendment Rights By Teresa Cajot PETA is well known for sponsoring controversial campaigns in an effort to draw attention to animal rights issues so it’s not very surprising that their work made headlines again last week. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), along with three marine-mammal experts and two former orca trainers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday asking a federal court to accede that SeaWorld is holding five wild-captured orca whales in violation of the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. The lawsuit, which names the five orcas as the plaintiffs, seeks their relocation into their natural habitats or seaside sanctuaries.

“All five of these orcas were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies. They are denied freedom and everything else that is natural to them while kept in small concrete tanks and reduced to performing stupid tricks. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves” according to PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. The suit which was filed in US District Court in San Diego, lists PETA, Ric O’Barry of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, marine biologist Dr. Ingrid N. Visser, Orca Network founder Howard Garrett, and former SeaWorld trainers Samantha Berg and Carol Ray as representatives of the whales. According to PETA, the lawsuit is based on the plain text of the 13th Amendment which prohibits slavery but does not specify that only humans can be victims. According to Jeff Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, his team has devoted 18 months to the preparation of the unprecedented case. “Slavery is slavery, and it does not depend on the species of the slave any more


than it depends on gender, race, or religion,” says Kerr. SeaWorld, however, disagrees and has suggested that PETA’s attempt to assign 13th Amendment rights to the orcas is “baseless and in many ways offensive.” Beyond that, SeaWorld asserts that it is “among the world’s most respected zoological institutions” and is proud of the care given to the animals at its parks. Regardless of the care given to the animals Naomi Rose, the Humane Society’s marine mammal biologist, asserts that the orcas at SeaWorld cannot adapt to the unnatural park environment. “They don’t seem to adapt to captivity. I would say they’re miserable.” The lawsuit echoes this idea, stating that in the wild, orcas function in complex communities, which cannot be replicated in a marine park. Orcas in captivity typically experience high levels of stress, which can ultimately lead to self-injury or the injury of caretakers, as was the case in February of 2010 when Tilikum, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, dragged a veteran trainer underwater , resulting in the her drowning death.

SeaWorld Sued for Violation of 13th Amendment Rights