People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, more commonly known as PETA, named five SeaWorld orcas as plaintiffs in a lawsuit earlier this month, contending that animals have the same constitutional rights against slavery that humans have.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller in San Diego dismissed the case, writing, “the only reasonable interpretation of the Thirteenth Amendment’s plain language is that it applies to persons, and not to non-persons such as orcas.”
As someone who generally disagrees with the stances of PETA, I have to admit, in this case they have a point.
PETA’s attorney, Jeffrey Kerr, told the Huffington Post that the lawsuit stemmed from the organization’s belief that “slavery doesn’t depend upon the species of the slave, any more than it depends upon the race, gender or ethnicity of the slave. SeaWorld’s attempts to deny [orcas] the protection solely based on their species is the same kind of prejudice used to justify any enslavement.”
By the reasoning of the honorable Judge Miller, our own species, Homo sapiens, are the only ones who cannot legally be enslaved or kept in conditions of slavery. While this logic is sound as long as we are at the top of the food chain, what will this mean for future lifeforms we encounter?
What of the Klingon, the Borg, the Vulcan? What of the Racnoss, the Ood, the Sontarans? (A Star Wars reference should go here, but seen the Episodes, I have not.)
With the advancements in interspace travel being made in our time and those of times to come, how can one man decide that only one species in existence has the right to basic freedoms?
Do none of the advanced races I’ve mentioned above, with their complex cultures, economic systems and languages, deserve the same courtesy?
Have we the right to dismiss the happiness and well-being of other species for our own personal gain? We may soon have to face these questions directly, as Scientific American has reported on a planet that is not only close to our own solar system, but in the habitable zone of its parent star.
There could be life as close, according to the magazine, as “a mere 22 light years away from Earth,” in the constellation Scorpius.
Twenty-two light years? The duration of a trip that distance is virtually no time in comparison with how long the universe has existed, according to our human estimations.
And so we must consider, if we deny basic rights to the mere creatures of our planet, down to the tiniest termite in its mound in Africa, how will we react when we find the giant scorpions living in Scorpius that will probably fly and have highly developed speech patterns, and who will obviously want to mate with us because our species is awesome?
At the rate we’re going, we’ll probably just blow them up with a couple of nuclear weapons.
Kill it with fire.