In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by Congress, officially outlawing slavery in the United States. Now, PETA is working to extend these protections—to animals.
In a suit filed against SeaWorld, the controversy-courting organization argued that the marine park's famed orcas were enslaved—forced to work against their will for the financial gain of their owners.
Though there was no precedent for the case in the US legal system, there have been some notable movements in recent years to extend human rights to animals. Some scientists, philosophers, and lawyers have argued that dolphins and whales, in particular, should be granted some modicum of human rights. Great apes, too, have been involved in the debate, receiving human rights from the Spanish parliament.
District Judge Jeffrey Miller became the first to hear arguments for extending human rights to animals in the United States. However, Miller decided to throw out the case before the hearing began. "As 'slavery' and 'involuntary servitude' are uniquely human activities," he explained in his decision, "there is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans."