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Legal Arguments Heard in Lawsuit Claiming SeaWorld Killer Whales Held As Slaves

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A judge took under submission today a federal lawsuit alleging five performing killer whales at SeaWorld parks in San Diego and Florida are being held as slaves in violation of the 13th Amendment.

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, filed the lawsuit last October, demanding that the orcas be released immediately on grounds that the 13th Amendment banning slavery should apply to animals.

Both sides presented their case before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller, who promised to issue a written ruling soon.

During an hour of arguments and questioning, the judge pointed out that the 13th Amendment was intended to apply to humans held in slavery.

Jeff Kerr, an attorney for PETA, said the lawsuit applies only to orcas at SeaWorld and has nothing to do with household pets and other animals.

"We've drawn the line very clearly in this case from the beginning," Kerr said outside court. "This case is about the enslavement of wild captured orcas who were forced to perform for human amusement, and there should be no protection in that kind of exploitation."

The lawsuit -- the first to contend that an animal is entitled to protection under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- names five orcas as plaintiffs, three based in San Diego and two in Orlando, Fla., and demands their release from captivity.

Kerr said that nothing worth fighting for comes easy.

"Women were denied equal protection under the Constitution until they weren't," Kerr said. "Minorities were denied equal protection under the Constitution until they weren't. Children were denied equal protection under the Constitution until they weren't. This is about the next frontier of civil rights."

An attorney for SeaWorld, Theodore Shaw, said courts do not allow animals the legal right to sue. He asked Miller to throw out the case.

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