A U.S. federal judge has thrown out an animal rights group’s lawsuit accusing SeaWorld of enslaving captive killer whales, ruling that orcas have no standing to seek the same constitutional rights as people.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) had accused the chain of aquatic theme parks of violating the rights of whales under the 13th amendment of the US constitution, which abolished slavery.
The lawsuit, filed in the US district court of San Diego, listed as plaintiffs five performing orcas at SeaWorld’s parks in California and Florida: Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises.
“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,” US district judge Jeffrey Miller wrote in his ruling.
“Both historic and contemporary sources reveal that the term ‘slavery’ and ‘involuntary servitude’ refer only to persons.”