|Tilikum v. Sea World
|United States District Court for the Southern District of California
|Full case name
|Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises, five orcas, by their Next Friends, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., Richard "Ric" O'Barry, Ingrid N. Visser, Ph.D., Howard Garrrett, Samantha Berg, and Carol Ray, Plaintiffs, v. Sea World Parks & Entertainment, Inc. and Sea World, LLC, Defendants
|February 8, 2012
|842 F.Supp.2d 1259 (2012)
Tilikum v. Sea World (Tilikum et al. v. Sea World Parks & Entertainment Inc., 842 F. Supp. 2d 1259 (S.D. Cal. 2012)) was a legal case heard in the US Federal Court in 2012 concerning the constitutional standing of an orca. It was brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on behalf of Tilikum, an orca kept in the SeaWorld Orlando park, against the SeaWorld corporation.
The plaintiff asked the court to rule that the terms of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution applied to Tilikum, and thus that the orca's confinement amounted to involuntary servitude or slavery. The court held that the Thirteenth Amendment only applied to persons and that Tilikum was not a person, and so was not afforded constitutional protections.
|c. December 1981
|January 6, 2017 (age 35)
|12,000 lb (5,400 kg)
Tilikum was a bull killer whale (Orcinus orca) bought by the SeaWorld marine park in Orlando, Florida in 1992 to be part of the park's orca exhibit.He was the largest orca in captivity. The other whales named as plaintiffs in the suit are Katina, who is also kept in Orlando, and Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises who are kept in SeaWorld San Diego.
A year prior to the case, Tilikum killed his handler and fellow performer, Dawn Brancheau. On February 24, 2010, Brancheau began her "Dine with Shamu" show with Tilikum just as she had many times before. However, this show ended by Tilikum reacting poorly to Dawn's request. While Brancheau interacted with Tilikum before a live audience, he grabbed Brancheau and dragged her into the water. He held her at the bottom of the pool, ripping part of her scalp from her skull, breaking her jaw, fracturing vertebrae, and killing her.Tilikum was also one of three orcas that killed trainer Keltie Byrne in 1991, and in 1999 the dead body of Daniel P. Dukes was found draped over his back.
On 25 October 2011 animal rights organization PETA brought a constitutional lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California as next friends of the orcas. They asserted the wording of the US Constitution is not expressly limited to humans, and that orcas are entitled to protection under 13th Amendment.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.— Thirteen Amendment
PETA said that the whales "were born free and lived in their natural environment until they were captured and torn from their families." The complaint alleged the circumstances in which the whales are held results in them experiencing "extreme physiological and mental stress" and that their lifespans were shortened to "8.5 years in captivity versus up to 65 years in the wild." The lawsuit asked the court to rule that the orcas were held in illegal involuntary servitude.
SeaWorld called the action "baseless" and a "publicity stunt", and defended the treatment of orcas in its parks, saying "no facility sets higher standards in husbandry, veterinary care and enrichment".
The court dismissed the action due to a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Dismissing the petition after two days of hearings, US District Judge Jeffrey T. 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".
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18. It was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the American Civil War.
The Titles of Nobility Amendment is a proposed and still-pending amendment to the United States Constitution. The 11th Congress passed it on May 1, 1810, and submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. It would strip United States citizenship from any citizen who accepted a title of nobility from an "emperor, king, prince or foreign power". On two occasions between 1812 and 1816, it was within two states of the number needed to become part of the Constitution. Congress did not set a time limit for its ratification, so the amendment is still pending before the states.
Involuntary servitude or involuntary slavery is a legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion, to which it may constitute slavery. While laboring to benefit another occurs also in the condition of slavery, involuntary servitude does not necessarily connote the complete lack of freedom experienced in chattel slavery; involuntary servitude may also refer to other forms of unfree labor. Involuntary servitude is not dependent upon compensation or its amount. Prison labor is often referred to as involuntary servitude. Prisoners are forced to work for free or for very little money while they carry out their time in the system.
SeaWorld is an American theme park chain with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. It is a proprietor of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, animal theme parks, and rehabilitation centers owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. The parks feature orcas, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals.
Bailey v. Alabama, 219 U.S. 219 (1911), was a United States Supreme Court case that overturned the peonage laws of Alabama.
Browder v. Gayle, 142 F. Supp. 707 (1956), was a case heard before a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on Montgomery and Alabama state bus segregation laws. The panel consisted of Middle District of Alabama Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Northern District of Alabama Judge Seybourn Harris Lynne, and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Rives. The main plaintiffs in the case were Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith. Jeanetta Reese had originally been a plaintiff in the case, but intimidation by segregationists caused her to withdraw in February. She falsely claimed she had not agreed to the lawsuit, which led to an unsuccessful attempt to disbar Fred Gray for supposedly improperly representing her.
Katina is a female orca who lives in SeaWorld Orlando in Florida. She was captured off Iceland at approximately three years of age on October 26, 1978. She is the most successful breeding female orca in captivity.
Sealand of the Pacific was a public aquarium in South Oak Bay at The Oak Bay Marina, near the city of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. It housed a number of orcas: Haida, Nootka, and Tilikum. In 1991, all three were involved in an incident in which a trainer, Keltie Byrne, was killed. The aquarium subsequently closed and sold its orcas to SeaWorld.
SeaWorld Orlando is a theme park and marine zoological park located in Orlando, Florida. Although separately gated, it is often promoted with neighboring parks Discovery Cove and Aquatica as well as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, all of which are owned and operated by United Parks & Resorts. In 2022, SeaWorld Orlando hosted an estimated 4.45 million guests, ranking it the 10th most visited amusement park in the United States.
This is a summary of notable incidents that have taken place at various SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment-owned amusement parks, water parks or theme parks. This list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of every such event, but only those that have a significant impact on the parks or park operations, or are otherwise significantly newsworthy.
Orcas are large, powerful aquatic apex predators. There have been multiple orca attacks on humans in the wild, but such attacks are less common than those by captive orcas. In captivity, there have been several non-fatal and four fatal attacks on humans since the 1970s. Experts are divided as to whether the injuries and deaths were accidental or deliberate attempts to cause harm.
Dozens of orcas are held in captivity for breeding or performance purposes. The practice of capturing and displaying orcas in exhibitions began in the 1960s, and they soon became popular attractions at public aquariums and aquatic theme parks due to their intelligence, trainability, striking appearance, playfulness, and sheer size. As of 1 January 2024, around 59 orcas are in captivity worldwide, 35 of which were captive-born. At that time, there were 18 orcas in the SeaWorld parks.
Dawn Therese Brancheau was an American animal trainer at SeaWorld. She worked with orcas at SeaWorld Orlando for fifteen years, including a leading role in revamping the Shamu show, and was SeaWorld's poster girl. She was killed by an orca, Tilikum, who was also involved in the deaths of Keltie Byrne and Daniel P. Dukes.
Tilikum, nicknamed Tilly, was a captive male orca who spent most of his life at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida. He was captured in Iceland in 1983; about a year later, he was transferred to Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia. He was subsequently transferred in 1992 to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, where he sired 21 calves throughout his life.
Shamu was the stage name used for several captive performing orcas at SeaWorld as part of their theatrical Shamu show beginning in 1960s. The original Shamu died in 1971, but the name was trademarked by SeaWorld, and has been given to different orcas over the years.
Ulises is a male orca who lives at SeaWorld San Diego in California. He was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1980 and is currently the oldest male orca in captivity as of 2022. SeaWorld San Diego celebrates his birthday on 1st January every year.
Blackfish is a 2013 American documentary film directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. It concerns Tilikum, an orca held by SeaWorld and the controversy over captive orcas. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films for wider release. It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.
Alexis Martínez was a Spanish animal trainer, notable as the victim of a fatal attack by an orca. He was killed by a SeaWorld-owned orca, Keto, held at Loro Parque's Orca Ocean in the Canary Islands.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite is an American filmmaker. She has directed documentaries and feature films, and she also produces, edits, writes, and directs for television and documentary films. Her films often deal with social, cultural, and environmental issues relating to real life events. Her most notable film is Blackfish (2013), which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Documentary.