Excerpted from the Sydney Morning Herald....
A federal judge for the first time in US history has heard arguments in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.
US District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the hearing in San Diego after Sea World asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that names five orcas as plaintiffs in the case.
PETA claims the captured killer whales are treated like slaves, forced to live in tanks and perform daily at its parks in San Diego, California and Orlando, Florida.
Advertisement: Story continues below "This case is on the next frontier of civil rights," said PETA lawyer Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.
Sea World's lawyer, Theodore Shaw, called the lawsuit a waste of the court's time and resources. He said it defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the American constitution's 13th amendment, which prohibits slavery between humans.
"With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question," Shaw said, adding later: "Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the 'We the people' ... when the constitution was adopted