Is SeaWorld's treatment of its killer whales comparable to slavery?
That was the claim being made in a lawsuit by the People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, which argued that keeping the huge mammals in captivity violated the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibits slavery.
Last night, Wyatt Cenac of The Daily Show jokingly needled the animal rights organization for the analogy. "So you're the Freedom Riders of the Whale Liberation Movement?" jokingly asked Lisa Lange, a PETA spokesperson.
PETA filed the lawsuit on behalf of the orcas in the U.S. District Court in San Diego last fall, and said that the whales "were forcibly taken from their families and natural habitats, are held captive at SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando, denied everything that is natural to them, subjected to artificial insemination or sperm collection to breed performers for Defendants' shows, and forced to perform, all for Defendants' profit. As such, Plaintiffs are held in slavery and involuntary servitude."
PETA's attorneys argued that the Thirteenth Amendment does not concern itself with any particular species. But the federal judge hearing the case wasn't really feeling that reasoning: last week, he threw out the lawsuit.