AP Exclusive: SeaWorld accused of enslaving orcas

By DAVID CRARY and JULIE WATSON | October 25, 2011 | 4:55 PM EDT

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In an unprecedented lawsuit, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld marine parks of keeping five of its star-performer killer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery.

PETA says the suit, to be filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, is the first federal court case seeking constitutional rights for members of an animal species.

The chances of the suit succeeding are slim, according to legal experts not involved in the case. But the case is likely to enliven a debate over expansion of animal rights that's already bubbling at law schools across the country.

Sea World vigorously defended the care that it provides to the orcas and depicted the lawsuit as baseless and offensive.