Updated at the bottom: Case dismissed. First posted at 11:51 a.m. on Monday.
You might have blown off PETA's claim that whales under the care of SeaWorld San Diego were deserving of constitutional protection barring slavery (we sure did), but a federal judge in the case today indicated he would seriously consider the possibility.
PETA was elated: "This is a truly historic day for the law and for the animals."
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller said today he would take the matter "under advisement," meaning he would consider it. PETA said this in response:
A federal court is considering for the first time ever whether the 13th Amendment applies to the five orca plaintiffs who are enslaved by SeaWorld. The definition of slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on the race, gender, or ethnicity of the slave. The attempt to deny these intelligent, highly social, and sentient beings protection from slavery solely because of their species is the same kind of prejudice used to justify any enslavement, but prejudice should not be allowed to determine constitutional rights in this country.
PETA brought the suit against SeaWorld in federal court in San Diego.
The animal rights group argues that SeaWorld whales Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky are being held against their wills in violation of the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery.
The org says it's the first test of whether such constitutional protection can be extended to animals. A motion to dismiss by SeaWorld has so far been unsuccessful.
PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk:
Nothing in the 13th Amendment excludes these extremely social, sentient, and intelligent beings from its protections, and SeaWorld's treatment of these five orcas absolutely defines slavery. The five plaintiffs were violently seized from their ocean homes and families to serve their 'masters' and are being made to do cheap tricks during an entire lifetime of privation.
[Update at 4:04 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8]: The orcas, apparently, shall not overcome. Not today.
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The judge said he'd consider it, and that he did: Case dismissed.
PETA sent us this statement:
Today, PETA's lawsuit on behalf of orcas confined to smotheringly small concrete tanks at Sea World, which asserted that a constitutional right should extend to all nonhuman animals, was dismissed in US District Court. This historic first case for the orcas' right to be free under the 13th Amendment is one more step taken toward the inevitable day when all animals will be free from enslavement for human amusement. Today's decision does not change the fact that the orcas who once lived naturally wild and free, are today kept as slaves by SeaWorld. PETA will regroup and determine how to continue to work for the legal protection they deserve.