"By any definition, these orcas are slaves."
November 2, 2011 8:23 AM   Subscribe

PETA is suing SeaWorld for violating the Constitutional rights of orcas.
posted by xowie (117 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does anyone actually take PETA seriously anymore?
posted by wheelieman at 8:26 AM on November 2, 2011 [18 favorites]


Are they going to try to rename orcas to sea tigers?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:27 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Animals have constitutional rights now?
posted by sunshinesky at 8:28 AM on November 2, 2011


Oh, PETA.
posted by verb at 8:28 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are they going to try to rename orcas to sea tigers?

That would be silly, but they do need something more mediagenic than "Or-ca".

I'd suggest "sea dolphins". Dolphins are cute.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


("Constitutional rights" is a link to a PDF - a warning would be nice...)
posted by koeselitz at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The plaintiffs are the five orcas, Tilikum and Katina based at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., and Corky, Kasatka and Ulises at SeaWorld San Diego.

lol.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Favre was skeptical that litigation seeking to apply the 13th Amendment to animals would prevail."

That probably depends on how many Orcas are in the jury pool.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


I shall double my daily ration of orcas to foil their plans once again.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2011


By any definition, these orcas are slaves.

slave (noun) 1. a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant.
person (noun) 1. a human being, whether man, woman, or child.


Well, except for the dictionary definition.
posted by CaseyB at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2011 [19 favorites]


Good luck with that.

Note that if intelligence, long-term memory and self-awareness are considered markers for personhood (orcahood?) then cetaceans are nearly first in line if we ever draw up a truly universal notion of "rights."

The conundrums we would create doing this, of course, are legion.

Neither whales, great apes or humans are probably ready for this.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2011


Needs a "blesstheirhearts" tag.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


"by any definition, these orcas are slaves"

Except for the definition of "slaves". Ironic, really.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


That probably depends on how many Orcas are in the jury pool.

Aqua-nullification!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011


Way to fill up the already fucked up dockets with more frivolity, assholes.
posted by spicynuts at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


an unprecedented and perhaps quixotic legal action that is nonetheless likely to stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America's law schools over expansion of animal rights.

The ultimate sign that something is disengaged from the workings of the real world: being conversational fodder at a law school.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011


It appears that PETA never got the memo that human rights were being reduced to the level of animal rights, rather than animal rights being increased to match the rights currently enjoyed by humans.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


I, for one, am proud of the fact that my dog and I are equals. I don't walk my dog, we walk each other. And he's got a great smelling butt.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Skimming the complaint ... seems like they are trying to advance the argument that orcas, by virtue of their social and intellectual capabilities, are a kind of person protectable under the law.

This will almost certainly get thrown out for lack of standing, which is, I suspect, what they are counting on, because I have trouble believing that they want a judge to rule on the merits.

This is litigation as performance art. FIAMO.
posted by gauche at 8:32 AM on November 2, 2011


I'd like to know how PETA has standing in the case. Did the orcas ask PETA to represent them in court?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:33 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


great. If they win I can expect my terrier to start filing nuisance lawsuits everytime I throw a cooked bone in the garbage instead of giving it to him.
posted by JPD at 8:34 AM on November 2, 2011


The real legal question is - can California's courts find orcas to be vexatious litigants?
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:34 AM on November 2, 2011


Neither whales, great apes or humans are probably ready for this.

Also Bottlenose Dolphins, Elephants, and - randomly - European Magpies.

...I ALWAYS thought those Magpies were up to SOMETHING, and NOW I have PROOF!!!!!!1
posted by Ryvar at 8:35 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always been a fan of non-human personhood, however, this is just fucking ridonkulous. If anything this little stupid act of PETAggrandizement is going to hurt the cause for non-human personhood way more than it will help or push it forward.
posted by symbioid at 8:36 AM on November 2, 2011


This all being said, I still hate places like Sea World and most zoos. They feel like visiting hours at jails. Depressing as hell.

Well, there is that primate research centre where they let great apes wander over to the work area to participate in studies [citation needed]. That sounds nearly humane.

I mean, by and large PETA is keying into the feelings of unease many of us have about places like Sea World. They are probably not so naive as to think they can win this. The point is to make a rhetorical statement that makes one think about things like "rights", "freedom" and "personhood."
posted by clvrmnky at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd like to know how PETA has standing in the case. Did the orcas ask PETA to represent them in court?

PETA was savvy enough to get this in the news before they even file suit.

(Also, did PETA ever get permission from the named orcas to file this suit?)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2011


I'd like to know how PETA has standing in the case. Did the orcas ask PETA to represent them in court?

Most orcas I know are represented by the firm of Squeeeaaaaauuu, BREEEE*click*breeee & OUUUooouOOUuu.

OUUUooouOOUuu is a right whale who specializes in submarine colision liability
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2011 [30 favorites]


If this works I am totally going to sue bunny rabbits for being excessively SUPERCUTE AND CUDDLY!!!!


....something something hoppity damage
posted by orme at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I, for one, am very curious about the constitution's applicability to animals. I have several amphibious soldiers that need to be quartered.
posted by Think_Long at 8:38 AM on November 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I ALWAYS thought those Magpies were up to SOMETHING

Thieving.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:38 AM on November 2, 2011


In keeping with PETA's preference for hiring animals for available jobs, their attorney is a reptile dubbed "The Liti-gator".
posted by dr_dank at 8:39 AM on November 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


PETA doesn't believe that the lawsuit has merit. But from their point of view, the publicity surely does.
posted by tyllwin at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's at this point that I've given up.

Agents provocateur have taken over PETA at all levels and have been leading the efforts in stupid attention-getting frivolous doomed things like this purely to distract the segment of earnest, deeply-commiting, energetic people who would otherwise be putting their effort into political and social activism that risks having meaningful consequence.

I have no idea who assigned the agents. Could be the FBI, Koch Bros, Trilateral Commission, Goldman-Sachs, somebody else, or all of the above. Doesn't really matter. The only problem is how well it's working.
posted by ardgedee at 8:41 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But from their point of view, the publicity surely does.

Putting on a clown nose, standing on a box and shouting "Hey everybody! I'm an idiot!" is not "publicity."
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:42 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This all being said, I still hate places like Sea World and most zoos. They feel like visiting hours at jails. Depressing as hell.

I dunno. I'm a pretty firm believer in the mirror test being the best line in the sand we have for determining the capacity for identity, even to the point of incorporating it into my personal position on abortion. If you can grasp the correlation between your internal states with external stimuli, then that indicates some sort of cognitive differentiation between "self" and "world", right?

But here's the thing: that capacity for "self" vs. "world" *might* imply an ability to feel anguish in the sense that we know it (the contextualization of one's pain), but you can't ask an animal whether it would prefer the relative safety and comfort of the zoo vs. the wild. That's the sort of thing that requires the capacity for modelling hypotheticals based on abstract concepts, which is something that comes a great deal further down the cognitive development road than basic identity.
posted by Ryvar at 8:47 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lawsuits brought in the name of animals have been tried a few times before, but they haven't had much success. Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004) is the primary case on point. Note that the plaintiff "Cetacean Community" was not the name of a non-profit group; "The Cetacean Community is the name chosen by the Cetaceans' self-appointed attorney for all of the world's whales, porpoises, and dolphins."

I say "haven't had much success" because the 9th Circuit did hold that it was within Congress's constitutional power to give animals standing to sue, but it also held that Congress hadn't done so and would need to do so unequivocally, given the unusual nature of the issue.

Another notable case is Citizens v. New England Aquarium, 836 F. Supp. 45 (D.Mass. 1993), which was brought on behalf of a dolphin named Kama, but as a district court case it has less weight than Cetacean Community.
posted by jedicus at 8:52 AM on November 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


That would be silly, but they do need something more mediagenic than "Or-ca".

I'd suggest "sea dolphins". Dolphins are cute.


Due, you are missing the obvious "Panda Dolphins!" That is a damn media home run, right there...

That probably depends on how many Orcas are in the jury pool.

If it's an actual pool, which it would need to be for accessibility issues, and there are any orcas, eventually the % of orcas on the jury would be 100%. Hey, a cetacean gets hungry, OK?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I dislike PETA, and this is stupid and loses merit for non-human personhood. However, at least it's getting people taking about it. There are so many reasons why keeping dolphins in that type of captivity is particularly cruel.
posted by Malice at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2011


@Ryvar, you should probably read up on recent studies. Much data collected from various mirror tests have turned out to be of very little value because of flaws in the way the test was run.

It turns out /many/ animals actually pass the core notions of the mirror test.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2011


Legal advice; claim that Orcas are corporations and therefore have rights like humans.
posted by Postroad at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


sea dolphins

Because all the standard dolphins are found in lakes and streams?
posted by Babblesort at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those orcas have a home, a steady diet of appropriate food, and better health care than most human beings. Fuck PETA.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:57 AM on November 2, 2011


Ah, wow, I see now that the case was brought in the Southern District of California, which is in the 9th Circuit, which decided Cetacean Community. I expect the case will die an early death.

Because all the standard dolphins are found in lakes and streams?

There are four species of river dolphin.
posted by jedicus at 8:57 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They feel like visiting hours at jails. Depressing as hell.

I think you're right on with the analogy, but coming at it from the wrong angle, they're not depressed, they're excited. I once saw an inmate who was so excited to see his fiancee that he jumped through a hoop, then walked backwards on his tail making excited clicking noises.

Either that or he kept trying to wave at her before he was allowed to, one or the other.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2011


clvrmnky: Interesting. I try to keep up on this stuff (I was a cog. sci major way back when) but I don't have as much time as I'd like these days, same as everyone. Any links on hand?
posted by Ryvar at 8:59 AM on November 2, 2011


I personally feel like PETA gives the idea of animal rights a bad name, which is a shame. Because animal welfare should matter. I would like for scientific studies to take into account animal suffering (as best is possible) and to not cause unecessary suffering for the animal just to see what happens... (When we pluck it's toes out quickly it seems to make an aah aah sound, let's measure the difference in vocal expressions of suffering when we pluck the toes out slowly...)

The idea of dogs and cats being oppressed by being pets kind of makes me giggle. Don't get me wrong, I get it, maybe the wolves are lucky to have escaped domestication and we should retrain all dogs to live successfully in the wild in packs and they would be happier--- but in the grand scheme of animal rights, this is really at the bottom of the list.

Let's make sure that animals being raised for slaughter or milking are TRULY in humane conditions and not eating poopoo or meat from their own species- that the process of slaughtering them is as humane as possible, that we cease using practices that cause unnecessary suffering to the animal while still alive for manufacturing convenience etc etc.

These are real things that can happen, but if you're only goal is veganism and set dogs free (really you think domestic dogs will do very well free?) then you can't work on real changes that would improve the lives of animals.

Not to mention-- if you're only working for animal rights and ignoring the huge amount of human suffering in the world, it IS a bit perplexing. Not to say I have any idea how much PETA member care about human rights issues in their off hours, but I have come to dread everything PETA does.

Not to mention using women's bodies pornographically to sell vegan ideals?
Seriously, that tells me which species well being they're concerned about being used and violated and it's any of them but humans.
posted by xarnop at 8:59 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know we all want to roll our eyes at this, but we have to pace ourselves. Let's hold off until the send in the inevitable naked models to serve the papers.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:00 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I chose "sea tigers" on purpose. Orcas swim in the sea. They are fierce, like land tigers. And tigers are cats, like PETA's former "sea kittens".
posted by madcaptenor at 9:00 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I almost chose "sea lions". It's a good thing I didn't, because it occurs to me that name is already taken.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:01 AM on November 2, 2011


@Ryvar, sorry, man. Not off the top of my head.

I can ask my SO, who's an Anthropologist who keeps up on primate studies. So I can ask here tonight.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2011


The only problem with PETA is, well, PETA.
posted by spilon at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2011


There are guys at PETA that happily snarf chicken strips and beef burgers high-fiving each other over executing such a great marketing campaign.

Somewhere, Don Draper smiles.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 AM on November 2, 2011


Chocolate Pickle: I'd like to know how PETA has standing in the case. Did the orcas ask PETA to represent them in court?

Exhibit A -- Sierra Club v. Morton (1972):
Sierra Club argued that they had standing to sue because they were a "membership corporation with a special interest in the conservation and the sound maintenance of the national parks, game refuges and forests of the country."
Sierra Club lost, but as summarized in the Wikipedia entry,
as a practical matter they won the war. All any environmental group needs to assert standing in a natural resource matter is to find among their membership a single person with a particularized interest (e.g. one who hikes, hunts, fishes, or camps in or near the affected area).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on November 2, 2011


Scroll down to see the Sea Tiger. Stick around for the Duckbunny.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2011


OK, PETA, we get it. You're not actually animal right's activists, you're performance artists who are satirizing the animal rights movement. It all makes sense now.
posted by asnider at 9:18 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Due, you are missing the obvious "Panda Dolphins!" That is a damn media home run, right there...
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:53 AM on November 2


That is the most brilliant piece of re-branding I've heard in a long, long time. I think you've found yourself a brand new career.
posted by sardonyx at 9:18 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It eases my conscience to think of animals in zoos/animal parks/aquaria to be taking one for the team, as it were. That is, it's terribly difficult to get people to understand and appreciate the importance of ecology and conservation without getting them close to the animals themselves. Zoo animals, it is to be hoped, are assisting their wild brethren in this way.

Otherwise these facilities are too bleak to even think about. I visited the Coney Island aquarium last year and teared up watching the seals swim back and forth in their tank, the same pattern over and over.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:20 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a more light-hearted look at the consitutional rights of animals, I cannot recommend enough the case of Blackie the Talking Cat.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2011


clvrmnky: Cool. I tried searching "mirror test errors gallup" (sans quotes) and a few other variations but didn't really come up with any major disputation, hence my request.
posted by Ryvar at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2011


Despite what editors of dictionaries think it's pretty clear that person and human are not synonymous. I mean, Locke made this point 300 years ago.
posted by oddman at 9:25 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are real things that can happen, but if you're only goal is veganism ... then you can't work on real changes that would improve the lives of animals.

I don't follow your reasoning here. You say you are concerned about the conditions in which animals are kept. So I don't understand why you don't think veganism is a way to improve lives of animals. Not that veganism is the one right way to do things (I'm not a vegan), but it's one way to reduce the consumption of meat. Dramatically reducing the amount of meat consumed is one of the best ways to alleviate the suffering you're talking about, including by having fewer animals born into those conditions at all.

Not to mention-- if you're only working for animal rights and ignoring the huge amount of human suffering in the world, it IS a bit perplexing.

This point only seems to get made about animals. With almost any issue, you can always say there's some other more important issue.

Frankly, this is not a great thread for having a serious discussion about animals. Metafilter FPPs on animals tend to get posted when something wacky like this happens, not in a way that fosters a balanced discussion. Once the topic is framed as bashing PETA, that's what the thread is going to be about.
posted by John Cohen at 9:27 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


That probably depends on how many Orcas are in the jury pool.

After voir dire, we have 1 orca and 11 humans.

No wait, ten human... sorry, nine ... no, eight ...

The jury has reached a verdict, your honor. They find the bailiff delicious.
posted by zippy at 9:27 AM on November 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


After voir dire, we have 1 orca and 11 humans.

No wait, ten human... sorry, nine ... no, eight ...

The jury has reached a verdict, your honor. They find the bailiff delicious.


"Officials are still perplexed as to how one human could have eaten 11 people and 1 orca."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm thinking the only reason that the USA doesn't move to sanction PETA and its attorneys under Rule 11(c) is because it'd be more of a pain in the ass to win than it would be to just move to dismiss and leave be.
posted by valkyryn at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2011


The plaintiffs are the five orcas, Tilikum and Katina based at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., and Corky, Kasatka and Ulises at SeaWorld San Diego.

Hey, Tilikum used to perform in my hometown! Until she killed a trainer and then they had to close the place down
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2011


California's courts find orcas to be vexatious litigants?

No, no, vexatious litigants is the binomial name of the sperm whale, not the orca. Orcas are vexatious gladiator.*







* Joke**. Though, in fact, the binomial name was orcinus gladiator, which I choose to read as "warrior of Orcus." The actual name is orcinus orca, which I guess means "killer whale of Orcus." How cool is that?


** After all, I'm a proud example of homo sapiens sarcastinus. Our motto: Ecco Iocus!
posted by eriko at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking the only reason that the USA doesn't move to sanction PETA and its attorneys under Rule 11(c) ...

The rule says it's OK to make "a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law."
posted by John Cohen at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2011


they do need something more mediagenic than "Or-ca".
Uruk-haia. Nobody would fuck with them anymore.
posted by Flunkie at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


PETA is going about this all wrong. The first step to getting animals accepted as equal to people is creating a Libertarian Supertopia. Plus, that way, Ayn Rand gets to visit the moon!
posted by Copronymus at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't trivial or frivolous in the slightest. The law has never, and will never, stop evolving, despite what so-called originalists claim, and the theory of animal jurisdiction/rights/law has much in common with the theory that children, blacks, women, gays, trans-gendered and non-gendered folk, i.e., everything that's not a white male adult, have defensible rights. It's not as crazy as it sounds on first hearing.
posted by facetious at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


This isn't trivial or frivolous in the slightest. The law has never, and will never, stop evolving, despite what so-called originalists claim, and the theory of animal jurisdiction/rights/law has much in common with the theory that children, blacks, women, gays, trans-gendered and non-gendered folk, i.e., everything that's not a white male adult, have defensible rights. It's not as crazy as it sounds on first hearing.

The constitution does not grant rights to animals. It specifically limits them to human beings. Just read it. Its about men. the constitution most certainly evolves. but it does not evolve beyond the basic definitions it sets for itself.

the complaint is completely frivolous. it will be dismissed forthwith.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 AM on November 2, 2011


I wish that PETA would focus its campaign more on the fact that orcas and other whales are arguably as intelligent as humans, and what it means to be sentient. Having a reminder to ponder consciousness would probably do a lot more in the longer term than stunt litigation.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think PETA has thought through the consequences of orca personhood. If they were granted person status, wouldn't they then become liable for murder?
posted by CaseyB at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2011


If they were granted person status, wouldn't they then become liable for murder?

Battered Seafood Syndrome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


(i'm sorry)
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2011


So this is how the Planet of the Apes Orcas begins.
posted by hot_monster at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2011


If they were granted person status, wouldn't they then become liable for murder?
Not to mention fishing without a license.
posted by Flunkie at 9:55 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just read it. Its about men.

So not women or children, then?
posted by John Cohen at 9:55 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think that it's wrong or frivolous to do some serious thinking about the rights we grant non-human animals. While PETA is often cringeworthy, at least they are out there doing something. Many sea mammals are astonishingly intelligent and the way they are used for our amusement shames me as a member of humanity. These animals deserve protection. While I agree it would be problematic to equate them to humans, it would seem we need some type of real legal intervention as people are currently doing a sorry fucking job of self policing. Even the institutions that pat themselves on the back for being pro-animal still fall far short of offering anything even remotely akin to a natural environment for these animals. Have you ever been in the ocean? It is nothing like those tanks. And both orcas and dolphins have amazing social structures. Keeping them isolated in barren tanks is absolutely abuse no matter how many toys you toss at them. I believe that a compromise could be reached, but these animals need a real advocate. A corporation that is profiting off them, like SeaWorld, can never truly be an impartial judge of their well-being.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


It always perplexes me how much hate PETA draws. They have no actual power or influence. It's almost like they tickle someone's guilt nerve.
posted by DU at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did nobody here read The Killer in the Pool? It was posted only about a year ago. Funny how people could be so sympathetic towards the plight of Orca's in that thread, yet so unsympathetic in this thread. And it's about the same whales!
posted by stbalbach at 10:00 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If they were granted person status, wouldn't they then become liable for murder?

I suspect you're just making a joke, but of course one can have rights without responsibilities. For example, very young children are legal persons, but they are (generally) not liable for crimes they commit. Mental illness or mental disability can likewise absolve criminal responsibility without denying someone personhood. Cetaceans and primates are, whatever their mental abilities, undeniably less intelligent than the average person, so if they were ever granted legal personhood, they would likely not have the same legal responsibilities as typical humans.
posted by jedicus at 10:02 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: where in the Constitution are corporations granted legal personhood?
posted by facetious at 10:03 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a pretty firm believer in the mirror test being the best line in the sand we have for determining the capacity for identity

Not all animals rely on vision so heavily as to make this the way to assess self-awareness... and anyway, most judgments about animal cognitive capacities tend to boil down to "are they just like us or not". Perhaps not the best way to approach the diversity of the living world...

...and what, no People for Eating Tasty Animals joke yet?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:04 AM on November 2, 2011


In time, it will be revealed that PETA has long been a false-flag operation bankrolled by Tyson, Cargill and Oscar Meyer to discredit worthwhile animal rights activism.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:06 AM on November 2, 2011


It's almost like they tickle someone's guilt nerve.

No, they stimulate my punching gland.
posted by elizardbits at 10:12 AM on November 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, and about zoos. There's a widespread, romantic idea that zoos are like prisons where wild animals are kept as slaves, whereas otherwise they would be free, free, free to run in the free wilderness they were born free into. Well, a couple of things about that: there are essentially no animals in zoos today that were captured from the wild; rather, zoo animals have been living in zoos for generations, which has altered their cognitive makeup (and some apparently claim that there are even evolutionary, or at least epigenetic changes). So for zoo animals, zoos are their natural born environment to which they have adjusted quite well. One interesting thing is that zoo animals remain in their childhood states, making boredom the number one problem for zookeepers. And finally, most species are territorial to a considerable extent, and since territory marking in modern zoos works quite well, zoo animals tend to feel quite well "at home" in zoos. (Random aside: some butterfly species live their entire lives in a region about 300 ft across.)

(All this from a good friend of mine who is doing her PhD on zoos. And sorry for the tangent.)
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


On the other hand, if we are stupid enough to treat corporations as citizens, we might as well let other stuff be citizens too. At least orcas won't buy off our elected officials and subvert our democracy. I think.
posted by jcworth at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Putting on a clown nose, standing on a box and shouting "Hey everybody! I'm an idiot!" is not "publicity."

MetaFilter: Putting on a . . .oh forget it.
posted by The Bellman at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


PETA makes me cringe, but intelligent species like whales, dolphins, and primates in captivity makes me cry.
posted by FeralHat at 10:20 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good. I hope they win.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is a great bit off of Patton Oswalt's new album about circuses.
posted by triceryclops at 10:33 AM on November 2, 2011


How does that old legal saying go?

Argue the law. When you don't have the law on your side, argue the facts. When you don't have the facts on your side argue the equivalencies.

Something like that.

Also, thank God we've stopped all the imports of products from exploited animals overseas! And from the midwest! Now we can finally get down to setting case law that will improve the lives of animals and completely ignore the third world realities.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:35 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now we can finally get down to setting case law that will improve the lives of animals and completely ignore the third world realities.

As many, many Mefites (and others) have pointed out, there is not reason that we can't do both. False dichotomies are fallacious.
posted by oddman at 10:54 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now we can finally get down to setting case law that will improve the lives of animals and completely ignore the third world realities.

As many, many Mefites (and others) have pointed out, there is not reason that we can't do both. False dichotomies are fallacious.


I don't really think it is all that fallacious to call BS on this. In a simple manner, they win and all hell breaks loose as large aquariums, resorts, sea-world-like places appeal in... well... everywhere. PETA has to sink more money and time into the case filing amicus briefs or whatever it is you do to help solidify your original case in an appeal (IANAL) which could take years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars before its all sorted out. More likely, they lose and spend a great deal of time and money that could have been going into exposing illegal imports (or some such thing) fighting the case to the SCOTUS.

The courts are, I believe, the right strategy but... human rights for whales? Wrong damn target. Why not sue Homeland Security or the border agencies for failing to fulfill their obligations under [insert act to prevent exploitative imports here]?

They could do both, and write exposes, and dig into corrupt back scratching between importers and government (at whatever level)... but money, personnel and time are limiting factors. You can do everything haphazardly or a select few things to near perfection.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:12 AM on November 2, 2011


It's not as crazy as it sounds on first hearing.
posted by facetious at 12:42 PM on November 2


Eponysterical.

Also, yes it is.

I make actual money writing about these sort of legal hypotheticals. The idea that a federal court in the United States is even going to entertain this argument is beyond ridiculous. There is an absolute bright line between human beings and other animals. I mean, we may debate whether an unborn child is human or not, but no one is suggesting that it's a baboon.

If orcas are entitled to human rights under the constitution, then factory cattle farming represents far and away the single largest, ongoing atrocity in human history. No court in the country will permit an action which even presents this as a possibility.

And we're beyond the level of precedent here, though jedicus does cite to some interesting cases. We're way into "No, thank you, and that'll be $1,000 for wasting my time" territory. There are certain arguments which the courts will not even dignify with a response. Suggesting, as tax protestors are wont to do, that the federal government is a private corporation that only has jurisdiction over its employees and residents of federal enclaves will not result in the court handing down a carefully-argued opinion as to why this is wrong. It will likely result in a fine for even making the argument. Suggesting that animals are entitled to rights under the US Constitution is pretty close to that kind of argument, i.e. a compete and utter waste of the court's time.
posted by valkyryn at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't trivial or frivolous in the slightest. The law has never, and will never, stop evolving, despite what so-called originalists claim, and the theory of animal jurisdiction/rights/law has much in common with the theory that children, blacks, women, gays, trans-gendered and non-gendered folk, i.e., everything that's not a white male adult, have defensible rights. It's not as crazy as it sounds on first hearing.
posted by facetious at 9:42 AM on November 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


Eponysterical?
posted by kafziel at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2011


PETA is seeming more and more like they've got to be made up of moles, whose job it is to make animal rights activists look bad. I mean, Super Tofu Boy? Really?
posted by JHarris at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2011


Workplace law can be so frustrating. Even if those orcas win, they'll never be up for a promotion again.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


valkyryn, good response generally, but:

If orcas are entitled to human rights under the constitution, then factory cattle farming represents far and away the single largest, ongoing atrocity in human history.

It should be noted that animal living conditions under the reign of industrial agribusiness are appalling, shockingly bad. If you multiply number of animals mistreated by even whatever small amount of will these creatures possess it still adds up to a terrible charge against our species, so that we had better hope there's no vengeful just, judging afterlife entity out there willing to take up their cause.

There is so much hay to be made on this issue that PETA wasting their time with frivolous stunt lawsuits about the rights of a handful of performing whales is actually offensive. I mean, who nominated these guys to be the Lorax?
posted by JHarris at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2011


If you multiply number of animals mistreated by even whatever small amount of will these creatures possess it still adds up to a terrible charge against our species, so that we had better hope there's no vengeful just, judging afterlife entity out there willing to take up their cause.

The point is taken, but I'm suggesting that what's going on here is actually a category mistake. The legal system recognizes that human life has value in ways that animal life simply does not. It's not a difference of degree, it's a difference of kind. So multiplying the number of animals mistreated "by whatever small amount of will these creatures possess" will never add up to the value of a single human life. Not in legal terms, anyway, and the legal system has about zero tolerance for the idea that any degree of "necessity" can justify acts taken in the name of environmental causes, especially where risk to human life is involved.

The appropriateness of this position is perhaps open to question, but that is the state of the law. And I'm not sure we want it to be different. There are few enough rigorous safeguards against the taking of human life, let alone flagrant abuse of human beings, to make me at all happy about the prospect of broadening what few protections we have to include non-human species. The end result is almost certainly not that protections will be extended, but that they will be eroded, as the distinctions upon which they are premised are erased.
posted by valkyryn at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2011


Guys, guys, guys - you're not briefing a motion for sanctions - this is a friendly discussion. If your only response is a contemptuous dismissal, please don't respond.
posted by facetious at 12:07 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is an absolute bright line between human beings and other animals.

Not a bad way to conceptualize the divide, actually. "Have you heard, Tilikum? You won your lawsuit! You're free to go! We just need you to sign your name on this bright line here to certify . . . Oh. Oh, right. Never mind then. On the bright side, I see they're refilling your herring bucket . . ."
posted by gompa at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2011


ardgedee: "[PETA acts leave no room for] earnest, deeply-commiting, energetic people who would otherwise be putting their effort into political and social activism that risks having meaningful consequence"

People who care about that (as opposed to people within PETA who care only about grandstanding) give money and time to worthwhile efforts, like the ASPCA.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2011


We're way into "No, thank you, and that'll be $1,000 for wasting my time" territory.

I disagree. The Cetacean Community case was only 7 years ago and it got all the way to the 9th Circuit. That case (and the Citizens v. New England Aquarium case) cite numerous other cases that included an animal as a named plaintiff. None of them ended with sanctions as far as I know. And unlike those cases, this one alleges a constitutional rights violation rather than a statutory rights violation, so it's a colorably distinct legal question. Beyond that, it's a basically well-plead complaint. Certainly there are much more muddled pleadings that avoid sanctions.

And the argument is nonfrivolous. Lots of law review articles have been written advancing similar arguments, particularly for higher primates. The cattle farming counterargument is inapplicable because they are only claiming that cetaceans should be considered persons, not all animals. Even the most strident animal rights supporters who advocate for legal personhood for animals only do so for a fairly narrow range of animals, none of them commonly kept as pets or raised for food. But what's more, that counterargument boils down to "slavery should be maintained because abolition would be economically disruptive"—not very convincing, to say the least.

I think the case will be (rightly) dismissed and, if appealed, it will be summarily affirmed without an opinion, but I don't think it quite rises to the level of sanctions.
posted by jedicus at 1:09 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Regardless of how ridiculous PETA may seem to some, I think it is better to have this debate now. It may even pave the way for better Human Rights.
posted by Renoroc at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The plaintiffs are the five orcas, Tilikum...

Shouldn't Tilikum be brought up on assault and manslaughter charges? Has he talked to his lawyer about this? Has anyone seen Tilikum's lawyer lately?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2011


"So I don't understand why you don't think veganism is a way to improve lives of animals."

Hmmm? I have been a vegan in the past and support veganism. I think it's a great way to support animal welfare. My point is that if you rage against anyone who is not willing to go vegan and not eat honey and banish any leather any where, and set their doggy free into the wild-- you're going to alienate people who might otherwise be interested in your mission. And if your orginization is responsable for inspiring people who see what your doing to think "LOL oh silly animal rights activisits", again you might be doing a disservice to your purpose. Then again, I have no idea what it is that motivates PETA so I guess general silliness and LOL silly animal rights activists might be their point?

"With almost any issue, you can always say there's some other more important issue."

Really you don't find exploiting human sexuality to sell veganism an ironic exploitation of humans to promote awareness of animal welfare? (Yes yes yes I know there is no such thing as exploitation in porn, how unprogressive of me to be concerned.)

"Frankly, this is not a great thread for having a serious discussion about animals."
You're right, this discussion that you are participating in with me is indeed much too serious.


LOL PETA!
posted by xarnop at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2011


On one hand, I'm not sure how you get animal rights into the news cycle without pulling crazy stunts. But they keep coming up with ideas that hinge on throwing those humans whose rights are the most precarious under a bus. Along with the porn deal, there's that campaign of theirs that capitalizes on anti-trans sentiment. It's like they're trying to court those almost-mythical privileged hetero white guys who have the most potential lawmaking power but think about other people's rights the least by aligning themselves with their crappy values. If the people running these campaigns share those values, I don't want any part of them. If they're doing it on purpose, I think they're just incompetent, because the audience they're courting is not going to stop considering them flaky kooks because they put on a fashion show where they put bloody furs on cross-dressing men.
posted by Adventurer at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point is taken, but I'm suggesting that what's going on here is actually a category mistake. The legal system recognizes that human life has value in ways that animal life simply does not. It's not a difference of degree, it's a difference of kind.

Where the issue is whether some group currently not regarded as persons should be given the status of persons, the fact that the legal system does not currently recognize the group as persons is surely question-begging.

The real question here is what gives human life value in the first place. If, as I suspect is the case, certain non-human animals like dolphins and orcas also have whatever it is that gives human life value, then those non-human animals ought to be protected by the law. And any legal system that does not recognize their status as persons would be unjust.

I really don't see why so many people on this thread are simply dismissing the argument out of hand. How about actually giving some arguments that orcas are not persons.

I mean, orcas are intelligent, they have simple language, they are social, they have a sense of self, they even have culture. They are probably not as good candidates for personhood as bottle-nosed dolphins (who add tool use to their repertoire), but they have a very strong case.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't see why so many people on this thread are simply dismissing the argument out of hand. How about actually giving some arguments that orcas are not persons.

Well, they're oracas and by definition, not people. They'd have to demonstrate a capacity to understand the concept of rights, yes?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 PM on November 2, 2011


Brandon (and others),

(1) "Person" is not the same as "human." At least, it should not be assumed without argument to be the same, especially since PETA and others are claiming that some non-human animals are persons. To dismiss the claim without any argument is simply to beg the question. Anyway, although I disagree with the decisions that form the legal basis for it, the law already recognizes some non-human persons, e.g. corporations. Since the law recognizes some non-human entities as persons, it seems a fair question what other sorts of things might count and what exactly (or even vaguely) it is that makes something a person.

(2) Unless you are using "capacity" in a very weak way, lots of humans who have recognized rights also do not have the capacity to understand those rights, e.g. newborn babies, severely mentally handicapped humans, humans with severe dementia, etc.

As others in this thread have pointed out, having rights does not necessarily mean having responsibilities, either. One can recognize the moral or even legal standing of an individual without necessarily requiring anything from that individual vis-a-vis society.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 3:35 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to live near PETA headquarters, and they were always giving what seemed to me to be outlandish press releases, such as:

"We are going to accost children at McDonalds and hand out McCruelty meals, complete with a bloody Ronald McDonald wielding a knife."

"Jesus was a vegetarian, as Scripture proves."

And so on. And he local media ate it up and reported it with great fanfare.

I honestly wonder if this is their tactic: to say outlandish things because they know everyone loves a good story and will pass it around for them.
posted by 4ster at 3:59 PM on November 2, 2011


Wow, this is a disappointing thread. The abusive treatment of creatures, who have reportedly the intelligence of a 4 year old human, has sparked some great discussions here, but I guess if you throw "PETA" in the FPP, then it's easy to overlook the abused mammals in order to crack about PETA's theatrics.

Common Dreams has an article about this and quotes excerpts of Professor Laurence Tribe's statements in support of the lawsuit:

“'The [thirteenth] amendment’s purpose, concerned with human slavery as a matter of original intent, is not bounded by the expectations of its authors, any more than the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment turned out to be bounded by its authors’ expectations… [I]t seems to me no abuse of the Constitution to invoke it on behalf of non-human animals cruelly confined for purposes of involuntary servitude. To the contrary, I can readily imagine a future in which ordinary citizens, moved by respect for animals and fear that we dehumanize ourselves by accepting widespread cruelty, look back with horror on the ways in which we now treat some of these noble creatures… [T]hat day may come more quickly than some might expect.' Prof. Tribe continues: '[P]eople may well look back at this lawsuit and see in it a perceptive glimpse into a future of greater compassion for species other than our own.'"

Like they say is one of the greater achievements of the Occupy movement: at least we're seeing the beginnings of a national conversation about wealth disparity. That people are talking about this is a win. Too bad the focus can't be on the actual subject of the lawsuit.

Excerpts from the lawsuit:

18. The orca brain is highly developed in the areas related to emotional processing (such as feelings of empathy, guilt, embarrassment, and pain), social cognition (judgment, social
knowledge, and consciousness of visceral feelings), theory of mind (self-awareness and selfrecognition), and communication.
Effects of Captivity
19. Defendants force Plaintiffs to live in barren concrete tanks in unnatural physical and social conditions. Defendants’ confinement of Plaintiffs suppresses Plaintiffs’ cultural traditions and deprives them of the ability to make conscious choices and of the environmental enrichment
required to stimulate Plaintiffs mentally and physically for their well-being. As a result, captive orcas, including Plaintiffs, display physiological and behavioral indicators of stress and trauma. Stress derives from many aspects of captivity, including the changes in social groupings and isolation that occur in captivity. Social relationships play a critical role in the lives and wellbeing of orcas.

20. Orcas in the wild live long lives, with males living up to sixty years and females living up to ninety years. In contrast, the mean life span in captivity is approximately 8.5 years.

21. The physical constraints of the artificial enclosures limit exercise and physically harm the orcas. Confinement also impedes social relationships, degrades autonomy, causes boredom, induces frustration, and inhibits the development of natural abilities and the performance of natural behaviors.
22. Captivity impairs orcas’ communication capacities. Confining orcas in barren concrete tanks with acoustically reflective walls is equivalent to a human living captive in a room covered with mirrors on all walls and the floor. The experience is profoundly distressing, with the distress increasing with the length of confinement in these conditions.
23. Captive orcas, including Plaintiffs, display physiological and behavioral abnormalities indicative of psychological distress and emotional disturbance. These include stereotyped behavior (abnormal repetitive movements like swimming in circles), unresponsiveness, excessive submissiveness, hyper-sexual behavior (towards people or other orcas), self-inflicted physical trauma and mutilation, stress-induced vomiting, compromised immunology, and excessive aggressiveness towards other orcas and humans.
24. One of the more dramatic forms of aberrant behavior in captive cetaceans is evidenced by their history of killing and seriously injuring humans, other orcas, and themselves. This history is striking considering that, despite researchers observing orcas hunt and feed from within a body’s length, both under and above the water’s surface, there is not a single verified instance of a human being attacked by an orca in the wild.


Like all animal abuse stories, the details are awful, made only better if we dismiss their capacity or ability to appreciate what they must endure. This is an industry that captures these creatures from the wild and abuses them by the very nature of captivity for the purpose of entertaining us for profit. It seems worthy of a discussion, yeah?
posted by Jezebella at 7:40 PM on November 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


So this is how the Planet of the Apes Orcas begins.

If they can't have justice, they will have vengeance.
posted by homunculus at 9:16 PM on November 2, 2011


Right on, Jezebella
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:27 PM on November 3, 2011


Yeah, it occurred to me that complaining about PETA in a thread in which PETA has only an incidental role is not entirely unlike coming into a thread about sexism and trying to make it about how women should talk to men about it. Not entirely like either, but similarly distracting and boring, given that the campaign in question is not even one of the problematic ones. I'm sorry.
posted by Adventurer at 1:36 PM on November 4, 2011


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