Is SeaWorld guilty of false imprisonment?

Right now a controversial piece of draft legislation, Assembly Bill 2140, is pending before the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee of the California State Assembly. This bill would require SeaWorld San Diego to stop using killer whales in its iconic marine shows and to release them from their tanks. According to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, orcas “are too large, too intelligent, too socially complex and too far-ranging to be adequately cared for in captivity”. In its current form, however, the proposed law would not compensate SeaWorld for its losses. Would such a law be constitutional?

In any case, do we really need special legislation to liberate Shamu and the other killer whales currently in captivity? If Ms Rose (the marine mammal scientist quoted above) is correct, isn’t SeaWorld guilty of some form of false imprisonment? (But who would have standing to bring a legal action against SeaWorld for false imprisonment? The District Attorney?) In brief, the tort of false imprisonment occurs when A restrains B in a bounded area without justification or consent. Doesn’t this legal definition accurately describe SeaWorld’s cruel captivity of Shamu?

Help me! I’m being held captive against my will …


About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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