Sea Mammals Sue SeaWorld by the Sea Shore

by Translation Guy on February 22, 2012

I said this was going to happen. Just a few weeks ago, I predicted that we would soon see sea mammals suing. And now just a few days later, five orca killer whales were plaintiffs in a San Diego Federal Court civil rights suit brought on their behalf by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Uncanny, right?

The SeaWorld Five,Tilikum and Katina of Orlando and Kasatka, Corky and Ulises of San Diego, were represented by Jeffrey Kerr, a PETA, attorney. Kerr argued that the captive killer whales are de facto enslaved in their SeaWorld holding tank and forced to perform circus acts at the parks against their will.

“This is an historic day,” said Kerr. “For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”

SeaWorld’s attorney Theodore Shaw argued otherwise, He thinks catch-and-release killer whales will be “hell unleashed.”

Which made me think that a revolving door for killer whales might be a problem in an election year, due to voter sensitivity about getting eaten by large oceanic predators.

Personally, I would not want a pod of killer whales on work-release in my ‘nabe. Especially the SeaWorld Five.  Tilikum is six tons of bad news, involved in three (human) deaths. That is one killer whale.

But US District Judge Jeffrey Miller took a more constitutional view when he ruled not to Free Willy.  “The only reasonable interpretation of the 13th Amendment’s plain language is that it applies to persons and not to non-persons such as orcas,” ruled the judge. “Both historic and contemporary sources reveal that the term ‘slavery’ and ‘involuntary servitude’ refer only to persons.”

So no civil rights for animals yet, but the PETA play is to make this the Dred Scott Decision for Planet of the Apes. I’d say social and technology trends are in their favor.

Will we feel differently about it when we can talk to the animals? There is a lot of interesting work being done on animal cognition and communication. I’m not predicting Charlie Rose interviewing chimp book authors next month. That’s still ways out. But we are better at talking to the animals and understanding what they are thinking. The big dividing line between animal and human is more nuanced than we had imagined.

Researchers, armed with new theories and new tools, are getting to the shared experience of sentience among so many creatures,

People like animals. People like to eat them. I don’t think they’ll taste so good when they start talking back.


  1. Leslie Zhou says:

    I see a reality show in the works. Someone call Jeff Probst.

    • Ken says:

      He’s not returning my calls.

  2. I think we are a long way off from seeing animals getting their day in court. I am surprised that this was even heard. And yes, the law was written for people.

  3. Where would this end? If animals like this are slaves and should be set free, what about dogs and cats? Should all pets be banned?

    • Ken says:

      I think its going to be more like Orwell’s Animal Farm. Some pet are going to be more equal than others.

  4. Jensen says:

    Th difference between this and Dred Scott is that he had the ability to speak and do everything as the white owner. Th whale…that’s a whole different ball game.

  5. Fynn Gentus says:

    I’m not a PETA supporter, but I see their point. I have a lot of empathy for animals in cages, however, sometimes if they weren’t in that cage, they would be dead. I have been to Sea World and I think they are living a pretty good life, albeit not as free as other orca’s in the world.

    • Ken says:

      What’s worse? Living life as a pig in a pen raised for slaughter, or not to have lived at all? That is not a rhetorical question.

  6. Tesar Goradz says:

    As a kid I loved animal shows and zoos. Now, I really don’t like to see caged animals and habitat being destroyed. I have a real understanding about the scientific intertwining of all the animals and I hate to see anything taken from the wild. Of course, I’m not an extremist. I do have a realistic perception of this world.

  7. Chen Zhao says:

    I wouldn’t call the whales slaves. They do the show if they want to. I stood in line to see it a few years back and a few of the whales didn’t want to perform. The workers had a back up plan, but it wasn’t as cool as a huge whale splashing the front row.

  8. I live in Orlando and I am tired of hearing about the whales at Sea World. Yes, it is horrible that a trainer recently died by a killer whale, but as with anything, people die all the time in dangerous jobs. At least here she was doing something she really enjoyed with her life.

  9. Lomsky Uhrin says:

    I hit the planet of the apes link and spnt over an hour reading about films. As always you add links that catch my interest. Thanks again!

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