A federal judge in San Diego has tossed out an unprecedented lawsuit that was aimed at getting constitutional protection against slavery for a group of orcas that perform at SeaWorld parks.

 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed the lawsuit in October and named five orcas -- aka killer whales -- as plaintiffs. PETA says the orcas are enslaved by SeaWorld because they are held against their will and forced to perform at its parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla.

PETA lawyers told the court this amounts to "slavery", which violates the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.

SeaWorld attorneys called the lawsuit baseless and a waste of the court's time and money, although some legal experts say it did open an interesting debate about animal rights, and how far the law should go in protecting animals.

After two days of arguments, US District Judge Jeffrey Miller dismissed the lawsuit, saying the 13th amendment applies only to humans. Miller wrote "As `slavery' and `involuntary servitude' are uniquely human activities, as those terms have been historically and contemporaneously applied, there is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans.

PETA's attorney didn't say whether they plan to appeal or not, but he did say they won't give up their fight to protect orcas and other captive animals.