The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Adam Miller 202-483-7382

PETA, Marine Mammal Experts Sue SeaWorld for Violating Orcas' Constitutional Rights

First Case of Its Kind Asks Court to Apply Anti-Slavery Amendment to Park's Wild-Captured Killer Whales


PETA, three marine-mammal experts, and two former orca trainers today filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to declare that five wild-caught orcas forced to perform at SeaWorld are being held as slaves in violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The filing--the first ever seeking to apply the 13th Amendment to nonhuman animals--also names the five orcas as plaintiffs and seeks their release. General Counsel to PETA Jeffrey S. Kerr; former dolphin trainer and star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove Ric O'Barry; and Simpsons creator Sam Simon will present the filing at a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"All five of these orcas were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies. They are denied freedom and everything else that is natural and important to them while kept in small concrete tanks and reduced to performing stupid tricks," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves."

Orcas are intelligent animals who, in the wild, work cooperatively, form complex relationships, communicate using distinct dialects, and swim up to 100 miles every day. At SeaWorld, they are forced to swim in circles in small, barren concrete tanks. Deprived of the opportunity to make conscious choices and to practice their cultural vocal, social, and foraging traditions, they are compelled to perform meaningless tricks for a reward of dead fish.

In addition to PETA and O'Barry, the other "next friends" presenting the orcas' case include marine biologist Dr. Ingrid N. Visser, Orca Network founder Howard Garrett, and former SeaWorld trainers Samantha Berg and Carol Ray.

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 2.0 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.