February 9, 2012

Whales as "slaves" and other strange tales from the Golden State

By Whales as "slaves" and other strange tales from the Golden State

A federal district court judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed by PETA, the (in)famous animal rights group, alleging that Sea World was violating the Thirteenth Amendment by keeping whales as slaves. Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 at the close of the Civil War to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude. Fast forward 147 years and PETA, purportedly representing five orcas housed at Sea World, tried to argue that “[s]lavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender or ethnicity…. Coercion, degradation and subjugation characterize slavery and these orcas have endured all three.” The court never reached that issue because it found that the orcas lacked standing to seek “the same Constitutional protections as people.” While we are relieved that the court has properly restricted constitutional protections to the human species alone, what we really want to know is: how much did the orcas pay in legal fees?

Meanwhile, from the surreal to the draconian, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors has amended the County’s code to prohibit numerous activities on LA beaches, including digging a hole deeper than 18 inches and throwing any kind of ball on the beach except for a  “beach ball or volleyball.” Want to relive childhood memories of playing catch on the sand? Forget about it or face a citation and fines. Curiously, the ordinance also prohibits disturbing the peace and quiet of any beach by “the use of any vulgar, profane or indecent language.” Who knew that the First Amendment doesn’t apply ocean-side? Perhaps the County fears that if beachgoers are too raucous, orcas will sue them for nuisance!

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