The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a reputation of going to great lengths in the interest of animal rights, so it may have seemed surprising when the organization bought a stake in SeaWorld on April 19. But PETA has one very specific goal: Free the whales!
Last year, PETA sued SeaWorld claiming it violated the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits slavery.
“We filed it on behalf of five wild orcas at SeaWorld in Orlando, arguing that they are enslaved in violation of the 13th Amendment,” Jeff Kerr, the PETA Foundation’s GC, told InsideCounsel in February. “The 13th Amendment prohibits the condition of slavery without specification of class of victims. These orcas were ripped from their homes and families where they would have spent their entire lives and forced to perform for SeaWorld’s profits, breed for future performance orcas and live in confined, concrete tanks that would be comparable to you or me living in a bathtub. These animals would swim 100 miles a day in the open ocean. By any reasonable definition, that is enslavement. If they can suffer from these prohibitive conditions, they should be entitled to the corresponding protection.”
Although PETA lost that case, its move earlier this month to buy a stake in SeaWorld is evidence it isn’t giving up the fight. The organization bought 80 shares worth $2,273.70, which PETA said in a statement is “the smallest number of shares necessary to give us the right to attend and speak at annual meetings, and to submit shareholder resolutions asking for policy changes.” PETA went on to say its “first order of business” would be to demand the release of SeaWorld orca Corky, who PETA says “has been enslaved by SeaWorld for 44 years.”
“SeaWorld profits from depriving highly intelligent and social orcas and dolphins of everything that’s natural and important to them and forcing them to perform meaningless tricks for a reward of dead fish,” said Jared Goodman, counsel for PETA Foundation. “As part owner in the company, we will submit shareholder proposals to educate other investors about the suffering endured by the orcas, dolphins, and other animals who are confined to tiny barren tanks for human amusement and push for their release. We are confident that investors will be outraged when they learn of the devastating effects of captivity and join us in calling for these animals to be retired to coastal sanctuaries and, where possible, rehabilitated and released into the ocean.”
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