Animal law

PETA to Cite 13th Amendment in Suit Challenging Killer Whale Captivity; Prof Sees Standing Problems

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans to file a lawsuit today in federal court in San Diego that lists five killer whales as plaintiffs.

The suit will contend the five orca whales are being held by SeaWorld in violation of the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery, according to the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times blog L.A. Now. The whales are represented in the suit by next friends that include PETA, orca experts and former SeaWorld trainers, according to a press release.

PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr tells AP he believes the suit will be the first to seek constitutional rights for an animal species. “By any definition, these orcas are slaves—kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that’s natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld’s profit,” said Kerr. “The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away.”

Animal rights law professors contacted by AP didn’t give the suit much chance of success. Law professor David Favre of Michigan State University predicted an early dismissal. “The court will most likely not even get to the merits of the case, and find that the plaintiffs do not have standing to file the lawsuit at all,” he wrote to the wire service in an email.

Favre has proposed giving animals more rights by creating a new legal category called “living property.”

SeaWorld officials maintain the suit is a publicity stunt. In a statement, the marine park said it sets high standards for care of its animals and follows the strictures of the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

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