On February 2, 2012, the news website Miller-McCune ran an article asking the question that’s been on all of our minds for the last few months: Will PETA’s Thirteenth Amendment lawsuit end in a “splash or a belly flop for animal rights”?
Don’t get us wrong: we agree that the orcas at SeaWorld are kept in conditions of slavery. They were kidnapped from the wild and are forced to do tricks for human profit. But, that’s very different from saying that an American federal court is ready to extend constitutional rights to these orcas.
Nobody wishes more than we that we’re wrong about PETA’s suit. We’d be more than happy for the judge to declare that, yes, in fact the Thirteenth Amendment does extend to these orcas and that they must immediately be retired to a suitable sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
But, sadly for the orcas and all of us who care about them, the legal system is just not there yet. And the consequences of a federal judge saying flatly “Orcas do not have constitutional rights” could have devastating long-term effects on any future attempts to win legal personhood for orcas. The work that we’ve spent decades preparing for. That’s why we’ve put our expertise to work, through the tireless efforts of our volunteers, to try to convince the judge to dispose of this case on the narrowest grounds possible.
We never wanted to be involved in this case, but we had no choice. There’s simply too much at stake.