"I'm an animal lover -- beef, pork, poultry, even fish," Stephen Colbert declared on "The Colbert Report" Wednesday night.
Colbert went on to tackle the lawsuit that PETA is filing against SeaWorld. According to PETA, the marine park is enslaving whales, in violation of the 13th Amendment ban on slavery.
The Associated Press reports that Jeff Kerr, PETA's general counsel, said, "By any definition, these orcas are slaves - kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that's natural to them ... The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away."
In the satirical TV program, Colbert argued, "How many slaves got to hang out all day at a water park?"
He went on to joke that "corporations like SeaWorld are people. We have to treat corporations with care and respect, and not cage them with ethical treatment of animals." He declared that the corporation should have the right to dress up dolphins and "teach sea lions to dance to 'Thriller.'"
In a press release, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk argued that the orcas are "kept in small concrete tanks and reduced to performing stupid tricks."
Colbert joked, "I am incensed every time PETA speaks for the animals. They can speak for themselves."
In a PETA TV spot over the summer, Bob Barker discouraged viewers from going to SeaWorld, arguing that many orcas "have died prematurely." According to PETA, at least 23 orcas have died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities over the past 25 years from causes other than old age.
A SeaWorld statement claims the PETA case challenges "the public's right to enjoy and learn more about marine mammals."
Overall, under prevailing U.S. legal doctrine, animals under human control are considered property, not entities with legal standing of their own. They are afforded some protections through animal-cruelty laws, endangered-species regulations and the federal Animal Welfare Act, but are not endowed with a distinct set of rights.