Judge Rules That Orcas Cannot Be Slaves Since They Are Not Human – But Are They Non-human Persons?

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Today (2/8/12) federal judge ruled against a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that seeks the release of orcas from SeaWorld on antislavery grounds.

The Amendment’s language and meaning is clear, concise, and not
subject to the vagaries of conceptual interpretation – “Neither
slavery nor involuntary servitude. . . shall exist within the United
States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 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-

The Constitution limits the federal judicial power to designated
“cases” and “controversies.” ….  Here, there is no likelihood of
redress under the Thirteenth Amendment because the Amendment only
applies to humans, and not orcas. Because Plaintiffs are without
standing to bring this action, no “case” or “controversy” exists and
this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, this case
is dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1)

But still to be addressed in the future is whether intelligent, sentient animals deserve to receive better care in our hands, and whether we have the right to but them into captivity when we can’t even approximate natural living conditions for them:
From Science:

Lori Marino, an expert on cetacean neuroanatomy at Emory University in Atlanta, [believes dolphins] may be Earth’s second smartest creature (next to humans, of course).
Marino bases her argument on studies of the dolphin brain. Bottlenose dolphins have bigger brains than humans (1600 grams versus 1300 grams), and they have a brain-to-body-weight ratio greater than great apes do (but lower than humans). “They are the second most encephalized beings on the planet,” says Marino.
But it’s not just size that matters. Dolphins also have a very complex neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving, self-awareness, and variety of other traits we associate with human intelligence. And researchers have found gangly neurons called Von Economo neurons, which in humans and apes have been linked to emotions, social cognition, and even theory of mind—the ability to sense what others are thinking. Overall, said Marino, “dolphin brains stack up quite well to human brains.”
So if dolphins are so similar to people, shouldn’t we be treating them more like people? For example, should we really being keeping them captive in zoos and aquariums? “The very traits that make dolphins interesting to study,” says Marino, “make confining them in captivity unethical.” She notes, for example, that in the wild, dolphins have a home range of about 100 square kilometers. In captivity, they roam one-ten-thousandth of 1% of this.

Inhumanely small pools and unnatural grouping of orcas is the norm in captivity
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