Saturday, March 3, 2012

Whale Slavery: A PETA Story

Slaves are bigger in person... (Image)
I would like all of you to join me in a thought experiment.

For those who have issues with thoughts, experimentation, or making decisions, please turn back now.

On October 26, 2011, a landmark lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of individuals whose hardships are often overlooked.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an organization famous for keeping an eye on the underdog, putting a roof over its head, and subsequently euthanizing it, filed the suit to shed light on the social injustice that is constantly drowned out by issues such as same-sex marriage, unemployment, and other things that actually matter.

The social injustice I’m talking about, of course, is whale slavery.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five SeaWorld orca whales that, according to PETA, are forced to perform tricks against their will and are not given compensation for this aforementioned trickery.  According to Jeffrey Kerr, the lawyer representing the five whales, SeaWorld is violating the 13th Amendment—which abolished slavery—by “forcing members of an intelligent, social species” to perform this work against their will.  While many maintain that this amendment to the Constitution applies only to humans, Kerr argues that this is not explicitly stated so it must be false, which I argue is the legal equivalent of the referee in Air Bud declaring that a golden retriever can join a youth basketball game because there “ain’t no rule that says a dog can’t play basketball.”

On February 9, 2011, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller dismissed the case, saying in his ruling that “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.”

While the court’s decision to throw out the case was not surprising, it did thrust a radical theoretical discussion of animal rights into the mainstream.  It also probably pissed off a lot of black people.  So, I find it necessary to think deeply about what may have happened in the realm of animal rights had the plaintiffs won this lawsuit.

Therefore, as mentioned above, I would like you to join me in the following thought experiment.

#1.          On a date quite some time in the future (due to the cumbersome nature of our legal system), a ruling is finally handed down in the lawsuit filed on behalf of five enslaved orca whales.  Arguments have been heard, experts have given their opinions, and the catch phrase from Free Willy has been redundantly exploited, even though none of the whales are named Willy.  The court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, defining their servitude to SeaWorld as slavery, and granting the five whales their freedom.  Due to orca whale coloring including both black and white, people both north and south of the Mason Dixon Line find difficulty in trying to make oversimplified metaphors comparing the orca situation to African-American slavery and the civil rights movement.  SeaWorld begins closing all of its parks.  If you support the court’s ruling, proceed to #9.  If you are against freeing the whales, proceed to #5.  If your apathy or indecision cripples your ability to form an opinion, it may be best just to stop reading this now.  There are a lot more choices ahead.

#2.          After working tirelessly to improve communication with animals, you slowly begin to be able to understand their wants and needs.  You procure a few different grants that allow you to work in zoos and nature reserves so that you can work side-by-side with your subjects, which range from penguins to lions.  Your work eventually wins you an Indianapolis Prize, and causes newspapers to refer to you as a real-life Dr. Doolittle.  Proceed to #6.

#3.          You visit the primate enclosure with your primary goal being to incite a shitstorm.  No, seriously, you try to make all the primates start flinging their own feces at each other.  After surreptitiously defecating in your own hand, you wind up and fire a scat-laser at a nearby gorilla.  However, from the moment you flung your dung, you realized it was a terrible idea.  Madness in the primate enclosure riles up the nearby jungle cats, and as your run past their cage in an effort to escape, a cheetah recognizes your scent from when marked your territory a few minutes earlier.  The cheetah climbs a tree and manages to launch itself through a hole between the fencing and safety net that seals off the enclosure, and it begins searching the crowd.  If you immediately regret being an asshole, proceed to #14.  If you remain smug, convinced you will be able to elude the rouge cheetah, proceed to #19.

#4.          With the whales’ freedom confirmed, you begin trying to build a grassroots movement that would extend Constitutional rights to all animals.  You begin focusing on making sure that animals are not exploited for their services, which is now defined by the courts as slavery.  The first slaves you aim to free are seeing-eye dogs for the blind, which you also view as a way to lower the unemployment rate, since people can subsequently be used instead of canines.  If you wear glasses or contacts, proceed to #8.  If you are not vision impaired, proceed to #10.

#5.          Concerned about the precedent set by applying the Constitution to non-humans, you feel a need to get involved in an alternative movement.  If you chose one that couples respect for the well-being of animals with respect for the fact that given the chance, many of those animals will eat you, proceed to #13.  If you just plain see humans as a superior species that should be able to treat animals however they wish based on your current mood, proceed to #7.

#6.          As your communication with animals improves you begin to realize that they are distinguished from humans for a reason.  From what you are able to understand, their only concerns are either eating each other or fucking each other.  If you are able to view this objectively, proceed to #15.  If learning this information excites you and makes you delve deeper into your work, proceed to #12.

#7.          After starting off your morning by purchasing a hamster just so that you could punt it off the roof of your apartment building, you decide a good way to spend your day would be to visit the zoo.  After urinating into the jungle cat enclosure to assure the animals know it is your territory and not theirs, you come to a crossroads and have to decide what to do next.  If you wish to see the final orca whale show before they are release back into the wild, proceed to #11.  If you instead wish to visit the primates, proceed to #3.

#8.          With the economy still weak from the 2008 recession, your movement gains traction due to its ability to bring jobs to the unemployed.  The jobs are found to be ones that don’t require much training.  This coupled with the fact that seeing-eye humans do not need to be fed and taken care of cuts down on costs for those with vision impairments.  Proceed to #16.

#9.          Still riding the high of seeing the five whales granted their freedom, you decide to become more involved in the animal rights movement, hoping to build on the success of the recent lawsuit.  If you can’t swim, proceed to #4.  If you can swim, proceed to #11.

#10.       Blessed with perfect vision and a great idea to solve unemployment, you start traveling the country convincing people to join your cause and investing the help of politicians.  Your movement to replace seeing-eye dogs with people is popular, and gains you fame and fortune.  If you let this success go to your head, proceed to #23.  If you keep a level head, proceed to #21.

#11.       After thought on the matter, you decide that the line in the sand separating human an animal is one that need not be acknowledged any longer.  You say goodbye to your friends and loved ones and set out onto the ocean to be one with nature and the freed whales.  After staying out of the public eye for a while, officials find an orca beached on the southern coast of Iceland with you lodged its blowhole.  With few facts to go on and no witnesses on the matter, officials decide, based on your love of propulsion as a child and lifelong dream to be able to fly, that you climbed into the blowhole hoping to be shot out high into the air like wild, untamed, human snot rocket.

#12.       In delving deeper into your work, you find it harder and harder to separate yourself from the animals.  One late night, you sneak into the nature reserve on a whim.  If you want to meet a zebra, proceed to #20.  If you want to meet a lion and name him Simba, proceed to #25.

#13.       You begin trying to organize a grassroots movement build around the principle that animals should be treated with respect and kindness.  Undeterred by how often the word “hippie” is shouted at you, you convert to veganism, also undeterred by the fact that you are now eating enough plants to start photosynthesizing.  You preach kindness and respect to all corners of the animal kingdom (including the ugly species), and begin soliciting the help of experimental zoologists so you can better understand animals’ needs and desires.  Proceed to #2.

#14.       Instead of running, you barricade yourself in the bathroom, hoping to wait until the situation subsides.  As you sit in the stall, rocking back and forth in the fetal position, you reevaluate your views on animals, and realize your mistakes.  Proceed to #22.

#15.       From your work you begin to understand that while being able to communicate with animals is valuable, they may not be capable of functioning in the human society we have put in place.  You continue to study their habits and explore their ability to learn language, but lobby to have them separate from humans when it comes to the rights put forth in the Constitution.  Proceed to #26.

#16.       As your vision begins to further decrease with age, you begin to realize that you may be in need of a seeing-eye human in the near future.  By middle age, you are almost completely blind due to a hereditary degenerative disease affecting your right eye, coupled with blindness in your left eye resulting from staring at pictures of Lady Gaga for too long in an effort to figure out if she is attractive or not.  As a result, you hire a seeing-eye human to help you get around.  While overall being on good terms, your Helper often lacks the loyalty that dogs are known for.  When going for a walk one afternoon, the Helper, who was against applying Constitutional rights to animals, leads you into the now-deserted SeaWorld grounds with the intention of robbing you to fuel a drug habit (something dogs also do not have).  If you sense something might be wrong, proceed to #24.  If you are happily oblivious to the dangers you may be facing, proceed to #27.

#17.       While unable to determine whether or not Lady Gaga puts a tingle in a man’s loin, you no longer care due to your crippling heroin addiction.  You and your Helper decide to start dealing, and eventually build a drug empire.  You sell to all walks of life due to the animal equality laws now in place.  However, you quickly find that animals, while being able to be physically addicted to heroin, still have not grasped the concept of currency.  One day, a heated disagreement occurs between you and a honey badger.  If you’ve ever been on YouTube, you can imagine that this didn’t go well for you.

#18.       In a tragic set of events, you die from injuries sustained from being slapped by a rainbow.  Local authorities, unsure how to prosecute the colorful diffraction of light through water droplets, decides it is best not to pursue legal action and deems the death an act of god.  This angers many outspoken Christians who maintain that while god works in mysterious ways, there’s no way he would ever kill somebody with a rainbow.  Instead they refer to the cause of death as “demise by way of an Amazing Technicolor Dreambolt of Lightning.”

#19.       Cheetahs run at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.  You were caught easily and ripped to shreds.  Honestly, why would you ever mess with a jungle cat?  Charles Darwin just giggled in grave.

#20.       You run into a zebra, and one thing leads to another.  After a night of passionate romance that would make Madonna blush, you stumble back to your office.  The encounter results in a zebra-human hybrid offspring, which you refuse to acknowledge as your own.  However, the general public trumpets the black-and-white-striped zebra baby as the poster child of racial tolerance.   A court demands you pay child support due to the legal standing that animals now enjoy.  You spend large amounts of your money on the zebra child, and live out the remainder of your life ashamed and confused.  Posthumously, you are heralded as an innovator that blurred the lines between the species, and paved the way for illegitimate bastard offspring from every corner of the animal kingdom.

#21.       You continue your movement and remain in the public eye.  However, after replacing seeing-eye dogs with humans, you realize that the German Sheppard population is through the roof.  You begin campaigning to keep the dog population down by getting them spayed or neutered and replace Drew Carey on The Price Is Right.  However, due to the Constitutional rights now given to animals, this campaign to limit their population is hugely frowned upon.  You are ridiculed in the media, and end up quitting the show while taping an episode and a meltdown that made Bill O’ Reilly weep in admiration.  After spending 45 minutes trying to climb the giant wheel used to place contestants into the showcase showdown, you storm off set never to be heard from again.

#22.       You eventually escape from the zoo after the cheetah is caught.  Your mind is now set on furthering the cause for animal rights, but from pursuing this line of work, your brain struggles to find something else to be a douchebag about.  Your charisma gains you national attention, and you are hired as the spokesperson for PETA.  In a nationally televised speech, you called on the nation to embrace the struggle for animal rights as the most important frontier in the new civil rights movement.  This angers many homosexuals and Christians who believe eradicating the persecution to which they are subjected should be first priority.  Proceed to #18.

#23.       Cashing in on your fame and fortune, you spend all of your money on a mansion and settle down.  Shortly after moving in, you discover massive infestations of termites, bed bugs, and cockroaches.  Unfortunately, now that animals are given Constitutional rights, you find it difficult to find someone who is willing to eradicate the insects for you.  Since no one will buy your house, you get a powerful scientist friend to create a new strain of smallpox to wipe out the native insects in your mansion.  Undeterred by the fact that they were there first, you run them out of the house, and kill the ones that won’t leave by infecting them with the new strain.  Proceed to #28.

#24.       Sensing that something might be wrong, you start screaming at the top of your lungs.  “Help!  I need somebody!  Help!”  Instead of coming to your assistance, you hear bystanders break into a chorus of the Beatles’ classic song, causing confusion and allowing your Helper to maneuver you through the crowd unnoticed.  Worried that these may be your last moments, you frantically go through images and memories stored in your head trying to determine, once and for all, if Lady Gaga is attractive.  Confused and frantic for an answer, you ask the Helper, and you engage in a long, philosophical discussion on the matter.  You become friends, and he offers you some heroin.  You accept.  Proceed to #17.

#25.       Simba is a lot nicer in The Lion King than he is in real life.  He mauls you with ease and eats you for dinner.  Later, a hyena, who sounds suspiciously like Whoopi Goldberg, scavenges off your remains.

#26.       You get involved in politics after handing off control of your research to others.  You launch a run for President of the United States on a platform of the separation of person and animal.  You speak honestly and frankly, answering the questions that are asked of you and setting forth your plans if elected.  As a result of the wholesome, straight-shooter image this gains you, you are crushed in the general election and fade into obscurity.

#27.       Oblivious to your Helper’s intentions, you are led into the former whale enclosure at SeaWorld.  The Helper, who suffers from a crippling heroin addiction and sick love of irony, robs you blind and locks you inside.  Regretting the fact that you never learn how to swim, you find your way around the park and locate the pool.  After hesitation, you dive in and begin teaching yourself.  After two weeks of becoming surprisingly independent, living off Cracker Jacks from the refreshment stand, and learning to swim, the authorities located you and set you free.  Invigorated by your new found aquatic talents, you begin to think.  Proceed to #11.

#28.       You die of smallpox.   Honestly, what did you expect was going to happen?