Judge tosses case seeking rights for orcas

SAN DIEGO — An effort to free whales from SeaWorld by claiming they were enslaved made a splash in the news but flopped in court Wednesday.

A federal judge in San Diego dismissed an unprecedented lawsuit seeking to grant constitutional protection against slavery to a group of orcas that perform at SeaWorld parks, saying the 13th amendment applies only to humans.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller stopped the case from proceeding two days after he became the first judge in U.S. history to listen to arguments in court over the possibility of granting constitutional rights for members of an animal species.

“As ‘slavery’ and ‘involuntary servitude’ are uniquely human activities, as those terms have been historically and contemporaneously applied, there is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans,” Miller wrote in his ruling.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed the lawsuit in October and named five whales as plaintiffs. PETA says the wild-captured orcas are enslaved by SeaWorld because they are held in concrete tanks against their will and forced to perform in shows at its parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla.

SeaWorld called the lawsuit baseless and a waste of the court’s time and money. Legal experts say it opened an interesting debate about the expansion of animal rights.

PETA attorney Jeffrey Kerr says his organization does not plan to give up the fight to protect the orcas, but he did not specify the next action.

PETA is known for its provocative anti-fur and pro-vegan campaigns to engage the court of public opinion.

“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,” Kerr said in a statement. “PETA will regroup and determine how to continue to work for the legal protection they deserve.”

SeaWorld denies any mistreatment of the animals and says its parks have raised awareness that has helped conservation efforts. It also says it has rescued orcas injured in the wild.

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Injured hiker rescued near Granite Falls

Woman fell and hit her head on a rock Saturday, and her condition worsened overnight.

Two teens struck by truck in Lynnwood

The teens, between the ages of 14 and 16, were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Most Read