When does a slave -- and a killer -- have the right to go free?
When the killer is an orca, a whale, "enslaved" by SeaWorld and entitled under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to the animal rights activist group PETA, which has succeeded in getting a federal court in California to consider the case.
"This is the first time a court has ever considered whether the 13th Amendment applies to the [whales]," attorney Jeffrey Kerr, the attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said, adding freeing the orcas was "the next frontier of civil rights."
The 13th Amendment -- passed in 1865 -- abolished slavery.
But U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller didn't seem convinced the 13th applies to orcas, not matter what the circumstances of their forced captivity. He noted that the five plaintiffs were animals, not people. SeaWorld asked the judge to toss the case out, calling it "completely without merit." The judge said he would rule soon on whether he would allow the case to proceed.