PETA to seek release of 'Slave Whales' - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

PETA to seek release of 'Slave Whales'

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SAN DIEGO (CNS/CBS8) - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday that seeks to extend constitutional rights to captive whales, saying performers such as SeaWorld's Shamu are essentially slaves.

The lawsuit -- the first seeking to apply the 13th Amendment to animals -- names the five orcas as plaintiffs and demands their release.

A news conference is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at PETA offices in Los Angeles.

"All five of these orcas were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies," said Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's president. "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. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves."

David Steinberg, Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law told CBS8, "I think it's ridiculous. It's frivolous. The 13th amendment was never meant to apply to animals. Were I the judge hearing this suit, I would impose sanctions for filing a frivolous suit." He add, "Not only is it frivolous, it's offensive. The 13th amendment was designed to free human beings from the despicable and horrid institution of slavery and PETA is now demeaning the 13th amendment by essentially comparing people, comparing human slaves, with animals. I really am shocked that anyone would make that kind of argument."

SeaWorld said the lawsuit would be a "baseless" publicity stunt and offensive to those the amendment was written to protect.

Full Statement from SeaWorld in response to PETA lawsuit:

"SeaWorld has been informed that it is the target of an animal activist lawsuit challenging the public's right to enjoy and learn more about marine mammals.  It is not appropriate to comment on a suit that has not yet been filed and that we have not seen, but this effort to extend the Thirteenth Amendment's solemn protections beyond human beings is baseless and in many ways offensive.  SeaWorld is among the world's most respected zoological institutions. There is no higher priority than the welfare of the animals entrusted to our care and no facility sets higher standards in husbandry, veterinary care and enrichment than SeaWorld.  Our parks are fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and display marine mammals under legal permit from the U.S. government.  SeaWorld is required to comply with an array of laws concerning the care of its animals, including two federal laws that affect the care of marine mammals:  the Animal Welfare Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Having these animals in a zoological setting serves an invaluable educational purpose and makes direct contributions to species conservation.  PETA has once again showed that it prefers publicity stunts to the hard work of caring for, rescuing and helping animals.  Today, while PETA was issuing news releases comparing the care for animals in zoological institutions to the abhorrent institution of human slavery, SeaWorld San Diego was returning a rehabilitated green sea turtle to the wild.   That animal is one of more than 20,000 rescued in SeaWorld's long history."

-David Koontz, Communications Director, SeaWorld

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