Written by Jennifer OConnor
will now stand as the case that future generations will look
back on as the one that broke legal ground for animals, captive orcas were
represented in a U.S. federal court in a lawsuit that PETA filed against SeaWorld seeking to establish that five wild-caught orcas deserved protection under the
Constitution's 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery. U.S. District Judge
Jeffrey Miller was the first judge in U.S. history to listen to arguments and
give careful consideration to the idea that the definition of slavery does not
exclude any species. Yesterday, Judge
Miller ruled that the 13th Amendment doesn't apply to nonhumans.
is no question that SeaWorld enslaves animals even though the judge in this
case didn't see the 13th Amendment as the remedy to that. Women, children, and
racial and ethnic minorities were once denied fundamental constitutional rights
that are now self-evident, and that day will certainly come for the orcas and
all the other animals enslaved for human amusement.
This historic first
case for the orcas' right to be free under the 13th Amendment is one
more step toward the inevitable day when all animals will be free from
enslavement for human entertainment. Judge Miller's opinion does not change the
fact that the orcas who once lived naturally, wild and free, are today kept as slaves by SeaWorld.
PETA will continue to pursue every available avenue to fight for these animals.
Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe described the unprecedented lawsuit, "Some may even be
offended by the implied comparison of human slavery with the experience of
non-humans who are captured in the wild and kept in conditions that are
unnatural for the species. But that reaction would overlook both what we have
in common with some other species and the many respects in which the
Constitution is an essentially aspirational document. Its bold language
and broadly expressed principles offer themselves to each generation as we
struggle to define our national values in an ever-changing world. Ours is a
vibrant Constitution, more than capable of warding off past evils while also
speaking to circumstances in which we come to recognize that familiar
principles apply in ways previously unforeseen. So it seems to me no abuse of
the Constitution to invoke it on behalf of non-human animals cruelly confined
for purposes of involuntary servitude."
pictured above, has a collapsed dorsal fin, which only occurs in captivity.milan.bores | cc by 2.0
You can make a
difference right now by refusing to buy a ticket to SeaWorld and by talking to parents and grandparents about the miserable existence that animals
who live and die in barren, cramped cement tanks endure.
Written by PETA
It was a landmark day
in the U.S. District Court in San Diego today. For the first time ever, a
federal court is considering whether or not the 13th Amendment,
which prohibits slavery, applies to five orcas—Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka,
Ulises and Corky—who are now incarcerated at SeaWorld
amusement parks. PETA, three marine-mammal experts, and two former SeaWorld
trainers filed the suit
in the orcas' behalf in October. SeaWorld filed a motion to dismiss the
case—but that didn't happen today. Instead, Judge Jeffrey Miller said he will
consider the case and will issue a ruling at a later date.
For a full hour, Judge Miller asked
thoughtful questions of both sides and listened as Jeff Kerr, general counsel
to PETA, spoke in behalf of the orca plaintiffs.
"It's a new frontier in civil
rights," Kerr said in his summary of the case. Slavery does
not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender,
or ethnicity, he argued. "Coercion, degradation, and subjugation
characterize slavery, and these orcas have endured all three."
We couldn't agree more.
In the aerial view of SeaWorld, one can
see how little room orcas have. Inside the circle is Tilikum, whose nose
and tail almost touch the ends of his tank. Image © 2011 Google
Next Media Animation
Limited—the number one source for print and
online news in Taiwan and Hong Kong—posted
to YouTube its own oddly compelling spin on PETA's lawsuit against SeaWorld. Enjoy:
Please post this
great piece on your Facebook page and Twitter account and ask every parent and
grandparent you know never to buy a ticket to SeaWorld.
by Jennifer O'Connor
Let us introduce
you to the five orcas forced to perform at SeaWorld parks who are at the center of the lawsuit
PETA filed today maintaining that they are being held as slaves in
violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But first, please take a moment to watch this video footage,
which shows orcas swimming freely in the wild—as they are meant to do—followed
by their traumatic capture. When
they are ripped away from their families, these sensitive, intelligent animals cry
and fight for their freedom—and they are affected by their ordeal for the rest
of their lives.
In the wild, orcas
are typically always in motion, even when they are resting. They travel up to
100 miles every day and spend up to 90 percent of their time under the water's
surface—something that's nearly impossible to do at SeaWorld, where only two of
the seven tanks are as deep as an orca is long.
Orcas are among the
most social animals on the planet and naturally spend their entire lives in
close-knit communities, enjoying their own cultures and dialects. They are also
sound-oriented animals; sound is their primary sense. When we capture them and
put them in concrete boxes, we take away the two most important things in their
lives: their families and the world of sound.
Here are the tragic
stories of the five orcas who are suing SeaWorld:
Tilikum was captured from his home and
family off the coast of Iceland when he was just 2 years old and sold to
SeaWorld in 1992. Faced with calls to free him, SeaWorld urged the Icelandic government
not to return him to Icelandic waters and prevented his release.
You likely remember Tilikum
because he's the orca who last year turned his aggression and frustration on
his trainer and killed her—the third person he's killed during his years of
confinement and chronic pain.
For a year after the attack,
Tilikum was punished with total isolation from other orcas, with much of that
time spent in a concrete tank just 2 feet longer than he is.
Tilikum no longer has teeth on
his bottom jaw as a result of continually gnawing at the steel gates between
enclosures. His teeth are now broken, leaving the pulp exposed and resulting in
chronic pain. Tilikum is being driven insane by the unmitigated monotony of his
Tilikum is now the primary stud
in SeaWorld's orca-breeding mill. His sperm has been used to produce some
two-thirds of all orcas born at the theme parks. He's been trained to roll over
and present his penis to trainers who masturbate him repeatedly to collect his
sperm for breeding.
October 1978, 2-year-old baby Katina
and her 1-year-old pod mate, Kasatka,
were captured by hunters off the coast of Iceland and sold to SeaWorld San
Diego in 1979. In the fall of 1984, the two were separated when Katina was
shipped to SeaWorld Orlando, where she remains today.
Katina was forced to breed when
only 9 years old, much younger than orcas breed in nature. Since then, she's
been used as a virtual breeding machine, delivering six more calves and even
being inbred with one of her sons.
Like Tilikum, many of Katina's
teeth are missing as a result of her stress-induced chewing on the tank grids.
Kasatka has been at SeaWorld for
three decades and has been forced to perform as many as eight shows a day.
Ulises was ripped from
his ocean home in 1980, when he was 3 years old. He's been at SeaWorld San Diego for nearly two decades, where he's
suffered injuries and stress from being bullied by incompatible tank mates.
Corky was kidnapped from her family in
1969 when she was only 3. She has endured the longest captivity of any
wild-captured orca, enslaved for more than 40 years.
Corky has suffered seven forced
pregnancies (she was continuously pregnant for almost 10 years from 1977 to
1986), and none of her calves survived more than 46 days. Her last stillborn
fetus was found at the bottom of her holding tank.
She is reportedly blind in her
left eye, and her upper and lower teeth are worn and decayed.
It's time to end the slavery of orcas who are denied
everything that is natural and important to them, exploited as breeding
machines, and forced to perform for SeaWorld's profit. The public is ready, the
orcas are definitely ready, and PETA believes that the law is on our side.
Let the Blackstone Group (which owns SeaWorld) know that its
days of keeping animals in tanks for profit are numbered. Please click here to e-mail them today!
In the first case of its kind, PETA, three marine-mammal experts, and two former orca trainers are filing a lawsuit asking a federal court to declare that five wild-caught orcas forced to perform at SeaWorld are being held as slaves in violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The filing—the first ever seeking to apply the 13th Amendment to nonhuman animals—names the five orcas as plaintiffs and also seeks their release to their natural habitats or seaside sanctuaries.
The suit is based on the plain text of the 13th Amendment, which prohibits the condition of slavery without reference to "person" or any particular class of victim. "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 general counsel to PETA, Jeffrey Kerr.
The five wild-captured orca plaintiffs are Tilikum and Katina (both confined at SeaWorld Orlando) and Kasatka, Corky, and Ulises (all three confined at SeaWorld San Diego).
"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 and important to them while kept in small concrete tanks and reduced to performing stupid tricks," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves."
In the aerial view of SeaWorld, one can see how little room orcas have. Inside the circle is Tilikum, whose nose and tail almost touch the ends of his tank. Image © 2011 Google
Orcas are intelligent animals who, in the wild, work cooperatively, form complex relationships, communicate using distinct dialects, and swim up to 100 miles every day. At SeaWorld, they are forced to swim in circles in small, barren concrete tanks. Deprived of the opportunity to make conscious choices and to practice their cultural vocal, social, and foraging traditions, they are compelled to perform meaningless tricks for a reward of dead fish.
Our understanding of animals grows every day. Animals are no longer regarded as "things" to dominate, but as breathing, feeling beings with families, dialects, intellect, and emotions. Just as we look back with shame at a time when we enslaved other humans and viewed some people as property less deserving of protection and consideration, we will look back on our treatment of these animals with shame. The 13th Amendment exists to abolish slavery in all its forms—and this lawsuit is the next step.
The orcas are represented in the suit by what the law refers to as their "next friends": PETA, Ric O'Barry (a former orca and dolphin trainer and the star of the Academy Award–winning documentary The Cove), renowned marine biologist and orca expert Dr. Ingrid N. Visser, Orca Network founder Howard Garrett, and former SeaWorld trainers Samantha Berg and Carol Ray.
The groundbreaking suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego.
Please help animals imprisoned by SeaWorld today. Click here to write to The Blackstone Group—the company that owns SeaWorld—and ask that it immediately set in place a firm and rapid plan to release the animals to sanctuaries that can provide them with an appropriate and more natural environment.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
Follow PETA on Twitter!
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.