LOS ANGELES - A U.S. judge has thrown out a case filed by an animal rights group alleging that the killer whales kept at SeaWorld are "slaves" held in violation of the U.S. constitution.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed the case against the popular marine animal park in October, arguing that the whales should be set free under the 13th amendment, which forbids slavery.
The suit called for the immediate release of three killer whales -- black and white giants also known as orcas -- held at a park in San Diego, California, and another two kept at a park in Orlando, Florida.
But in an hour-long session on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller threw out the case, ruling that the amendment only applied to humans.
PETA spokesman David Perle said the group's struggle would continue until "the inevitable day when all animals will be free from enslavement for human amusement. Today's decision does not change the fact that the orcas who once lived naturally wild and free, are today kept as slaves by SeaWorld."
But SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said that the speed with which the court issued its decision showed "the absurdity of PETA's baseless lawsuit."
"SeaWorld remains the standard for zoological stewardship of marine animals and we reject any challenge to the conditions and quality of care for these remarkable animals," he told AFP.