My cousin and his wife love animals and when she had a recent birthday my cousin asked his wife what she wanted. “I want to see animals,” she replied. So, to see animals, they came to San Diego for a long weekend. San Diego has a lot of animal attractions – the Zoo is famous, the Wild Animal Park has great open range exhibits, and Sea World has marine mammal attractions that you probably can’t find many other places. They had a great time.
So, I thought I was looking at an Onion News Network headline today at lunch which read: PETA Lawsuit Alleges SeaWorld Enslaves Killer Whales
And then I realized I wasn’t on The Onion.
Really? Yes, really. The lawsuit alleges the orcas “enslavement” at the Sea World parks here in San Diego and in Orlando constitute a violation of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment.
Plaintiffs 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,” the lawsuit says, arguing that those conditions amount to enslavement and/or forced servitude.
And here, I’d always thought that the Constitution applied to American citizens. Silly me. And the last time I checked, you had to be Homo sapiens to be a citizen. And while they have pretty big brains, I’m pretty sure that Orcinus orca do not qualify. So, I continued munching my sandwich and complained about these sort of ridiculous publicity stunts, when I noticed that the article in the local paper had a poll that asked if “the Constitutional ban on slavery applied to whales”?
And if I was shaking my head at the audacity of frivolous lawsuits, when I clicked on the poll I noticed that a jaw-dropping ~40% of almost 1000 respondents said — yes, the 13th Amendment ought to cover whales. FORTY PER CENT!
I mean, good Lord, people – I think there is a conversation to be had over the treatment of animals in zoos and parks, but everyone that I know that has been associated with the zoo or Sea World LOVES animals and would sooner hurt themselves than mistreat an animal. These entities are interested in conservation and education and do a lot of good in the community and throughout the world. I clearly see that an organization like Sea World walks a finer line between advocate and amusement than the zoo does, but you never get the sense that the animals in their care are anything but well looked after.
But even after thinking about it all afternoon, I still come back to the 40%. 40% is more than you can get allowing for “crackpots”. I simply don’t get it. And what does it mean for domesticated animals? I think most pigs and cows would trade places with Shamu any day of the week. And where does this leave pets? Are our cats and dogs our slaves? Of course not. I mean, I know I anthropomorphize Penny’s actions a lot more than is probably healthy, but I’m still not going to let her have a vote or get a passport.
40%!!! Help me out here.