PETA jump the shark

Except it must of course be a free range shark rather than that poor thing in the cage that the Fonz jumped over, or so I’d assume from this.

A 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.

Now I’m not a fan of orcas and dolphins in captivity and won’t pay a cent to go see them (and I have paid well to see them in the wild). If the orcas themselves had squeaked and clicked at a lawyer and sued Sea World I’d be barracking for them, but since the orcas are animals I just hope that people get over this kind of thing and Sea World gradually diminishes. They may be very bright animals but as with the iPad apps for cats thing the other day I think it’s anthropomorphising to go much further. Any being that’s clearly able to speak up for itself and complain that its rights are being infringed I’m on the side of, and ownership of such a being is slavery or something very much like it. But as far as I know the only such being is a human being, and even then not all of them qualify. Children need looking after while they are still children and while we don’t own our kids as such that can’t really be said to own themselves either.

Animals, even very bright ones, are a different story, but it’s a story that PETA seems not to have not heard.

“This case is on the next frontier of civil rights,” said PETA lawyer Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.

It’s on the next frontier of something, alright.

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.

As I’ve indicated, I’m not all that keen on supporting Sea World in keeping orcas but I think he may just have a bit of a point here. Look at what it says in the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

‘We the People’ not ‘We the People and Cetaceans’, and nor was anyone involved in drafting, signing and ratifying the Constitution a member of any species other than Homo sapiens. That’s not a one-off use: even before we get to the Bill of Rights ‘the People’ are mentioned again in Article 2 where it talks of membership of the House of Representatives, and even in California dolphins do not have the vote. In the Bill of Rights itself the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendments all explicitly refer to people (in the first person in the case of the 5th), the 3rd doesn’t but must as well because it relates to land ownership, and it can be inferred in the remaining three amendments since they relate to judicial proceedings such as excessive bail, impartial juries and so on, and you wouldn’t expect anyone to put a dolphin on trial. Later Amendments, such as the 14th which refers to citizenship and the rights and liberties that come with it, again refer to people and there’s no mention in the two that extend suffrage beyond the 19th Century ‘white guys only’ model refer only to race and sex respectively. ‘Species’ doesn’t get a mention because – duh – animals physically can’t vote anyway, and in fact both speak only of citizens so we’re back to the 14th and people again. In fact it seems so blindingly obvious that ‘duh’ could almost be the whole argument if lawyers weren’t all prolix bastards that put me to shame.

“With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question,” Mr Shaw said, adding later: “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’ … when the constitution was adopted.”

Quite, and probably as close as a lawyer can come to ‘Well, duh’.

The judge raised doubts a court could allow animals to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and questioned how far the implications of a favourable ruling could reach, pointing out the military’s use of dolphins and scientists’ experiments on whales in the wild.

Sounds like he’s trying to find a more official legalese version of ‘duh’ as well. Incidentally, I wouldn’t shed a tear if the military stopped using dolphins but I’d rather it was because of human ingenuity producing something that does the job better or, at a push, statute law forbidding it.

Mr Kerr acknowledged PETA faces an uphill battle but said he felt positive after Monday’s hearing.

“This is an historic day,” Mr Kerr said.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”

Big deal. You can go to court and argue that Elvis came from the stars and therefore his will was invalid and Gracelands should become public property, but that doesn’t mean you’re not talking bollocks. Bottom line, the Constitution is a document for and about human beings. Call that speciesist if you want, but that’s how it’s got to be unless you want to extend human rights and citizenship to non-humans, which might raise further problems for some of Sea World’s orcas.

Click for linky

A SeaWorld killer whale has snatched a trainer from a poolside platform, thrashing the woman about underwater in its jaws and killing her in front of a horrified audience.

It is the third time the animal, named Tilikum, has been involved in a human death.

[…]

A marine conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History believes the whale’s actions at SeaWorld were intentional.

Extending human rights to animals, even bright ones, cuts both ways. Humans have responsibilities as well as rights, top of which is the responsibility to other humans. Many of us fail to respect that and there are legal sanctions for those who do so. In much of the US, including in Florida where the Sea World trainer was killed, those sanctions include the death penalty. But of course nobody would consider an animal that’s killed a human is a murderer because they’re not human. Well, apart from PETA who seem to think you don’t have to be born human to have a human’s legal status.

I wouldn’t ascribe malice to it myself, but that’s not the point. If it was a human doing it there would be an investigation and, if appropriate, charges. If the orcas are to be treated as if they are humans then that must mean treating them exactly as if they’re human, in all respects.

And what else might this mean? Sea World could then be sued, probably into bankruptcy, for many years back pay for the orcas, who’d doubtless have another self appointed PETA lawyer insisting that they be recognised as employees in the entertainment industry. Which achieves what? The orcas physically can't open bank accounts so it'd need to be a cash lump sum, and the taxman will complain that it's wet when he comes to get his share. And because the pools are half full of banknotes Sea World, assuming it's still there, will get sued again for poor living conditions and again when one of the orcas dies from some $100 bills getting lodged in its blowhole. All because of a bone headed insistence of treating animals not simply with respect, but as actual people.

And why would it stop there? Other dolphin species are just as bright if not more so, which means they'd have to be treated the same way. And then there are dogs, some breeds of which can be pretty bright and are used as working dogs on farms and in police departments and so on – hey, you with the guide dog, you slaver bastard! It probably means every dog in the US that's been taught to fetch, and I'm sure PETA are fine with that too because they're on record as being opposed to domesticated animals including pets and livestock.* Bee keepers are fucked.

This opens a massive can of worms – except it mustn't because the worms have rights – as it has the potential to be extended to every other living thing. To me that should include fungi, soil microbes and plants, especially those that are grown with the express purpose of being cut down and exploited as a food source. Which is something I doubt all the vegans and veggies at PETA have considered or would agree with, but hey, exploitation is what it is and all life is related. If a dog is a rat is a pig is a boy then surely it's also a wheat plant and a tasty mushroom and a vegetarian sausage and case of strep throat – and how many microbes did you massacre in the shower this morning just so you could smell nicer, you genocidal bastard? All life consumes and exploits other life, PETA, and vegetarians are no exception even if they do self righteously refuse to eat anything even vaguely cute and start pouring piss about keeping animals being slavery.

That's taking PETA's arguments to extremes but ad absurdum or not I think it’s a fair point. This is about where you draw the line, and while most people are happy to draw it around our own species PETA want to draw it around the whole animal kingdom. The interesting thing is that I cannot believe they expect to succeed. I cannot believe that they expect to reach a point where having a few beehives is seen as being as bad as having fellow humans in chains working fields, and I doubt they really expect to persuade a federal court that the document which is the United States’ highest law and refers explicitly to people also includes a large species of dolphin whose last ancestor shared with us would have died many millions of years ago and wouldn’t have faintly resembled either of us.

In fact I suspect PETA expect to lose but hope to drum up a lot of publicity in the process, which is inevitable when you’re in a court arguing that a twelve tonne sea mammal that can rip a shark’s face right off is the same as you and I. Not worthy of respect or kindness, but the same. They’re going to lose but they’re going to gain PR out of it.

Hang on. Doesn’t that mean PETA are exploiting these beautiful creatures too? You utter bastards, PETA.

* They also advocate vegan diets for domestic cats despite all cat species being obligate carnivores. Their reasoning? Cats eat some plant matter. Hey, fuckwits, just because cats eat some plant matter does not mean they don’t need any meat.

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Posted on February 7, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “… and how many microbes did you massacre in the shower this morning just so you could smell nicer, you genocidal bastard?”

    Be sure to put that in your letter to PeTA. Apart from all the other reasons to hate them PeTA wage psychological warfare against their supporters and anyone else dumb enough to go to their website by posting the most horrific footage of animal cruelty they come across. An ex of mine was practically in hysterics when she watched one of these videos. I’m all for ethical treatment of animals but what they do is traumatise people without warning. In our caring, sharing world animals are almost people so graphic footage of suffering animals has a similar psychological impact.

    I think we can take something from their example though: PeTH – People for the ethical Treament of Humans wishes to put an end to the commodification of humans in the eyes of security system designers and social engineers. No more body scanners! No more use of tax as a deterrent!

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