A federal judge for the first time in U.S. history heard arguments Monday in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the hearing in San Diego after Sea World asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that names five orcas as plaintiffs in the case.
PETA claims the captured killer whales are treated like slaves for being forced to live in tanks and perform daily at its parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla.
“This case is on the next frontier of civil rights,” said PETA’s attorney Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.
Sea World’s attorney Theodore Shaw called the lawsuit a waste of the court’s time and resources. He said it defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the Constitution’s 13th amendment that prohibits slavery between humans.
“With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question,” Shaw said, adding later: “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’ … when the Constitution was adopted.”
Miller listened to both sides for an hour before announcing that he would take the case under advisement and issue his ruling at a later date.
Suffice it to say that this should also be the last “time in U.S. history” that a judge indulges such nonsense. But, hey, it’s California. The rest here.