On February 8, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller dropped his gavel and declared whales are not entitled to constitutional protection against slavery. This ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed last October by five orcas currently being "held in slavery and involuntary servitude" at SeaWorld. The plaintiffs, Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Corky and Ulises, apparently feel they "were forcibly taken from their families and natural habitats... held captive... and forced to perform, all for Defendants' profit." Using PETA-sponsored legal representation as their collective blowhole, this pod of orcas demanded to be released to more suitable habitats.
Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA, argued the 13th Amendment should prohibit slavery against orcas. "Slavery is slavery," he said, "and it does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on gender, race or religion." Kerr attempted to circumnavigate the issue posed by the famous phrase "We the people" by reminding the Court of his client's ability to problem-solve, communicate and form complex communities.
SeaWorld dismissed the lawsuit as a publicity stunt, but I think Kerr and his legal team are deliberately paving the way to all animals having constitutional rights. Kerr states, "for the first time in our nation's history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human." It seems only potted plants are excluded from the scope of Kerr's sweeping statements.
Given PETAs colorful history of publicity stunts, perhaps Kerr's statements are just another attempt to commandeer the media spotlight. But how should similar stances by university academics be regarded? For example,
· Rutgers University law professor, Gary Francione, believes "animals deserve the fundamental right to not be treated as property."
· Michigan State University law professor, David Favre, has proposed "a new legal category called living property as a step toward providing rights for some animals."
· Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, has written "the 13th Amendment could legitimately be applied to animals."
I love animals as much as anybody but do not want to live in a country where:
· Omelets have a right to life
· Bacon has the right to vote
· Cats have the right to consider neutering an elective procedure
· Dairy cows have the right to free press
· Pit Bulls have the right of peaceful assembly
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