The Historic Case of Tilikum v. SeaWorld

Profile photo of Christina-F

Posted February 10, 2012 by Christina

In what will now stand as the case that future generations will look back on as the one that broke legal ground for animals, captive orcas were represented in a U.S. federal court in a lawsuit that PETA filed against SeaWorld seeking to establish that five wild-caught orcas deserved protection under the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller was the first judge in U.S. history to listen to arguments and give careful consideration to the idea that the definition of slavery does not exclude any species. Yesterday, Judge Miller ruled that the 13th Amendment doesn’t apply to nonhumans.

There is no question that SeaWorld enslaves animals even though the judge in this case didn’t see the 13th Amendment as the remedy to that. Women, children, and racial and ethnic minorities were once denied fundamental constitutional rights that are now self-evident, and that day will certainly come for the orcas and all the other animals enslaved for human amusement.

This historic first case for the orcas’ right to be free under the 13th Amendment is one more step toward the inevitable day when all animals will be free from enslavement for human entertainment. Judge Miller’s opinion does not change the fact that the orcas who once lived naturally, wild and free, are today kept as slaves by SeaWorld. We will continue to pursue every available avenue to fight for these animals.


Legal Expert Weighs In

Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe described the unprecedented lawsuit this way:

Some may even be offended by the implied comparison of human slavery with the experience of non-humans who are captured in the wild and kept in conditions that are unnatural for the species. But that reaction would overlook both what we have in common with some other species and the many respects in which the Constitution is an essentially aspirational document. Its bold language and broadly expressed principles offer themselves to each generation as we struggle to define our national values in an ever-changing world. Ours is a vibrant Constitution, more than capable of warding off past evils while also speaking to circumstances in which we come to recognize that familiar principles apply in ways previously unforeseen. So it seems to me no abuse of the Constitution to invoke it on behalf of non-human animals cruelly confined for purposes of involuntary servitude.

Tilikum, pictured above, has a collapsed dorsal fin, which only occurs in captivity.

milan.borescc by 2.0

You can make a difference for orcas right now by refusing to buy a ticket to SeaWorld. Click here to send an e-mail to SeaWorld to ask that it release its animals to reputable sanctuaries, where they can live in a more natural habitat.

And be sure to click here to see how you can help Tilikum, an orca who has been held captive at SeaWorld for 20 years.

Thanks for helping to speak out against injustice!




Post a Comment

Please log in to comment.

Your email address will not be published.

Connect with Facebook

Your email address will not be published.

Connect with Facebook

  • 1386 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Poor baby!!!! I hope Tiliklum gets put in a sanctuary!!!

  • 1386 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Seeing that fin like that just breaks my heart, why can’t they use their money to heal Tilikum?

US & Canada: Sign up for Mobile!

Games, freebies, events in your area & more

Mobile #

  I agree to the full texting T&Cs. Msg and data rates may apply. Text HELP for help, text STOP to end. Up to 10 msgs/month.

Follow Us

Top Commenters

  • Profile photo of Pantherxxl12

    I'm a therian /otherkin wolf lycanthrope that sees this lifetime in this body as a punishment that the god and goddess has bestowed upon me, but I try my best to do good to all living beings except usually humans which I hate and detest with all my being.

  • Profile photo of babyhuey121795jess

    ☸ ✵ ❂ ⚘ ❀ ❃ ❁ ✼☸ ✵ ❂ ⚘ ❀ ❃ ❁ ✼☸ ✵ ❂ ⚘ ❀ ❃ My name is Jason. Top 10 quirks: 1. I’m vegetarian. 2. I’m Sagittarius 3. Artist 4. I love The Beatles 5. Love dogs! 6. Spring is my favourite season. 7. I’m an only child. 8. I knit. 9. I like to press flowers. 10. I like to shrink potato chip bags. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says peace in braille. I feel like I should've been a teen in the 60’s-70’s. I have rainbow gauges in my ears. I’m FTM transgender but only identify as a gay male. I will write to anybody! I love fast food, glass blowing, making solar sensitive paper prints, ceramics, making friendship bracelets, tie dying, decorating my room, shopping online and off (but mostly online), cuddling with my Cockapoo named Mickey,eating candy, making things, fashion, & going to the mall. I can’t cook to save my life. I enjoy Netflix, crafts, & making people laugh, I am generous and enjoy Oldies. Green is my favourite colour. I hate the colour orange. Halloween is my favourite holiday. I’m addicted to playing Kardashian on my Ipod and using Instagram. I want to travel a ton one day, learn German, drive and lifeguard, and be an elementary school art teacher. I collect international stamps, coins, postcards, Betty and Veronica Archie Comics, kawaii stuff, cameos, *stickers*, and trinkets (I pick things off the ground, I’m a klepto like that). I write in a diary everyday. I hate candy corn. I have two cactus plants. I have Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr and Instagram, so HMU if you want my usernames. I believe loosely in karma, fate, kismet, déjà vu, reincarnation, dreams, destiny & fate. I love for stores: Etsy, Hot Topic, Francesca's, & Claire’s. People say I look like Brenton Thwaites. My Celeb Hotties are: Joseph Gordon-Levitt *swoon*, James Franco, Paul McCartney, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Krasinski & Josh Hutcherson (I have no idea why they all mostly start with “J” lol). But my favourite actors are Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. · My favourite foods/restaurants are mangos, 99 Restaurant, Dominoes pizza, pickles, & Pinkberry/Froyo World. My favourite movies and TV shows are Juno, Aquamarine, The Office, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Investigation Discovery, Bojack Horseman, Detention, Crank Yankers, How To Catch a Predator, Mary and Max, Bates Motel, Bob’s Burgers, Salem, Dateline, The Killing, & Darknet. As for Horror films the scariest I’ve seen are: Vile, Quarantine, Would You Rather & Truth or Die My favourite books are The Catcher In The Rye, Penpal, It’s Kind Of a Funny Story, & Life As we Knew it. · My favourite quotes are "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "If you wait to tell someone you love them, it’s too late." -Paul McCartney "If you don’t shoot, you don’t score." "It’s all okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end." "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make." -Paul McCartney Looking for: • Penpal • Art Pals • Package Pals • Snail Mail I send small gifts, and even surprise you when I’m thinking of you. **I ask that your age is 18-23.** No country requirements, I enjoy using stamps lol. What I expect from a pen pal is LGBTQA respect and a consistency to correspondence. But I seriously love meeting new people with different interests and writing to them.

  • Profile photo of rebekahbunny

    I'm a coffee-guzzling college kid. I love animals and just recently decided to be vegan.

  • Profile photo of dragonfly95

    I was bullied out of my old school, my only friend was my dog. Now i work with a vet and an animal rescue, ive gone vegetarian, and all i want now is for animals to be treated better.....because i know first hand how cruel and evil humans can be But i wish to find new better friend on here and maybe we can change this world for the better together, so please friend me, and talk to me!

  • Profile photo of srivera0117
  • Profile photo of stasia3419
  • Profile photo of AnimalActivist
  • Profile photo of DaughterEarth
  • Profile photo of deantate
  • Profile photo of gamontesdeoc
  • Profile photo of isar2015

    My name is Isa. I was raised around the world. I play clarinet in my school band and I play guitar for stage band and outside of school. Hablo espanol. I help everyone dealing with any issue, I am very outspoken, and I can never shut my mouth