Uncertain Future for SeaWorld

Nicole Geraci

SeaWorld Killer Whale Show One WorldWhile controversy has long surrounded human-orca interaction, the recent release of the documentary “Blackfish” has sparked considerable outrage amongst its viewers.  The film captures the history of killer whales in captivity with its spotlight on Tilikum, an orca who was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 and transported to SeaWorld.  “Blackfish” also portrays the tragic 2010 incident of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau who ultimately lost her life after being dragged underwater by Tilikum, the events of which were witnessed by a live audience.

In response to the trainer’s untimely death, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposed a $12,000 penalty (reduced from an original $75,000 fine) on SeaWorld.  The pending litigation involves the general duty clause of the OSHA which requires employers to provide “a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  The issue is whether SeaWorld has in fact violated this duty.  SeaWorld filed an appeal contending that it should not be required to eliminate all risk associated with an activity that is essential to the company’s work.  Labor officials have responded with safety requirements in which SeaWorld trainers would be ordered to work behind barriers or maintain safe distances between themselves and the whales, which according to SeaWorld, would undermine their shows.  Continue reading

Buddhist Inmate Denied Vegetarian Diet

Seth Victor

The Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, CT is required by directive to provide “all nutritional requirements as determined by a Department of Correction licensed dietitian, without the presence of food items Veggie Fishforbidden by religious dogma” to all its inmates. Howard Cosby is a practicing non-violent Buddhist, and while not all branches of Buddhisim require a vegetarian lifestyle, Mr. Crosby identifies as a person who wishes to not cause harm to other living animals. Mr. Crosby, however, has regularly been served fish while incarcerated, because the department of corrections does not consider fish to be meat. Now to be fair, this position isn’t wholly out of line with the arbitrary classifications animals receive by the government. It is not, however, an encouraging example of semantics. If the Connecticut Department of Corrections has the authority to declare what is and is not meat, what is stopping it from saying cow or chicken is not meat? If the only criteria is its own opinion, the answer is, not much. One may think that common sense would intervene, but common sense hasn’t prevented the staff at Corrigan-Radgowski from confusing convenient Catholic loopholes with an entirely different doctrine. Now I know that once you are in prison you cease to be a person that the country cares about, your rights don’t apply, and as long as you stay out of sight it doesn’t matter how long your sentence is. But let’s at least learn what a vegetable is.

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Bullfighting: Justifying Cruelty with Tradition

Spencer Lo

The judges on France’s Constitutional Council, a 9 member body, ruled yesterday that bullfighting does not contravene the constitution, rejecting a challenge by the animal-rights group CRAC who seeks to ban the practice nationwide. Although bullfighting is prohibited in certain parts of France, the tradition has remained popular in the south – particularly in the Nimes and Arles areas – for the past 150 years. Professor Diane Marie Amann offered a brief analysis of the Council’s ruling here. CRAC contended that an exception contained in the country’s criminal code which explicitly protected bullfighting—if it occurs in regions “where an uninterrupted local tradition can be invoked”—violates equal protection principles (“The law…must be the same for everyone, with respect to protection as well as to punishment”). In other words, because bullfighting is prohibited in some areas on animal cruelty grounds, the same practice should be prohibited everywhere, otherwise unequal treatment would result. Rejecting this argument, the judges affirmed the tradition exception as constitutionally permissible. But the decision raises the obvious question, what’s so special about tradition? Why should entrenched cultural traditions, however humanly significant, take precedent over the welfare-interests of animals?   Read more

Kansas State Fair’s Restrictions on PETA are Upheld

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Adonia David

It is state and county fair season.  Speaking as a born and bred Midwesterner, I can say that for many of us, there is a bit of magic associated with them. Fairs are hot summer days and evenings, cotton candy, roasted corn, and the sound of cicadas floating high above the tumult.  Fairs are ferris wheels and other scary looking rides set up by carnies overnight that look as though they may tumble to the ground any moment.  And fairs are animals.  Animals – the glory of a state fair: cows and calves and bunnies; goats and pigs; chickens of all shapes and sizes and plumage.   The animals are beautiful.  Many are gentle, hand-raised by children in 4H, and many of them are destined for slaughter.   Just what this death involves seems to be generally ignored by fair-goers.  It disturbs the magic. Continue reading

Meat by any other name would be as troubling

Seth Victor

Humans have been flirting with the idea of lab-grown, or in vitro meat for a while. We’ve commented about it previously here. PETA has a standing offer of a $1 million monetary incentive for the first successful synthetic meat that can find its way to supermarket shelves. Yesterday, FT Magazine ran a feature by William Little about a lab in the Netherlands that is poised to take the big step between the laboratory and the cash register, though that step is still years away.

As usual, many of the problems surrounding this concept have been revealed through humor. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. But it isn’t the public’s perception that I worried about as I read Mr. Little’s article. It’s the viability of this process. I’ve read articles touting the benefits of lab meat, including reduced pollution and less consumption of natural resources, if the process is profitable. I’m not arguing that replacing the CAFO system we currently employ for our meals isn’t admirable. I just question whether this is the way to do it, and if we aren’t just creating a new monster.

Continue reading

Is PETA v. SeaWorld a Bad Idea?

Spencer Lo

 There is no question that, in the ordinary sense of the word, a great many non-human animals are slaves, forced to exist in extremely deleterious conditions to fulfill the wishes of their human masters. Most are untroubled by this fact—slavery over animals has been widely accepted in society for a very long time. Last October, in an effort to reverse this norm, PETA made a radical (some say outrageous) move. They filed a lawsuit against SeaWorld on behalf of five orcas, creatures who have been forced to live in highly confined, unnatural environments, to their detriment, all for the purpose of performing cheap tricks. Their decades-long captivity, according to PETA, violates the constitutional prohibition against slavery (aka the Thirteenth Amendment).

While it may be common sense that the orcas are slaves, from a legal standpoint, PETA is asserting a very radical claim. Is it too radical? PETA is essentially contending that the oracas are full legal persons entitled to constitutional rights. For the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), an organization dedicated to changing the legal status of non-human animals from “things” to “persons,” the move is too soon; the lawsuit “is dangerously premature” and “will damage future animal rights law cases” if it is decided on the merits. NhRP has been allowed to appear as an amicus curiae in the case, and is seeking to have it decided on non-constitutional grounds, rather than on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment claim. The question then is why: why is failure on the merits so bad or counterproductive from the viewpoint of animal rights advocacy? Although PETA is unlikely to prevail, how could it hurt to try?   Continue reading

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