WMNF | The Nonhuman Rights Project founder discusses what The Atlantic calls “the most important animal rights case of the 21st century.”


Steven M. Wise—founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP); lawyer, author and jurist, Wise leads the NhRP’s pioneering effort to free an elephant named Happy from the Bronx Zoo through a writ of habeas corpus, aimed at changing her status from a “thing” to a “corporate person.” . “Talking Animals” this week interviews the NhRP’s legal scheme as we previously spoke in 2013, when the organization focused its efforts on chimpanzees.

Wise says they emphasized in presenting cases animals with demonstrated sophisticated cognition – chimpanzees and other great apes, elephants, killer whales – noting that they had Happy in mind as a test case a few years later. early. Now she is at the center of the current NhRP affair; Wise and her colleagues argue that Happy, who has lived alone at the Bronx Zoo for more than 15 years, should be able to secure her right to bodily liberty and be moved to an elephant sanctuary.

Wise points to the historic significance of the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in that state, agreeing to hear the case in 2022 (or possibly 2023, he says) — the first time the highest court in all of England – the competent court will hear a case of habeas corpus brought on behalf of an individual other than a human being.

Atlantic calls it “the most important animal rights case of the 21stcentury.”

In response to my observation that the NhRP has clearly made inroads in its quest for animals to be granted “person” status, and, not coincidentally, the legal landscape has changed, at least moderately, on On this issue, Wise cites a pivotal opinion issued by Judge Eugene M. Fahey of the New York Court of Appeals, including “Although it may be argued that a chimpanzee is not a ‘person,’ it no doubt it’s not just one thing” and Maryland Judge Michele Hutton dissented by a majority in a case last year that barred all nonhuman animals from having rights, saying Maryland’s legal arc should “extend limited personality recognition to companion animals.” etc

It describes the experience of “Unlocking The Cage”, the documentary by renowned filmmakers Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker, describing Wise and his NhRP work. And Wise gives details of the Happy case, including the dozens of experts and others who filed amicus briefs supporting the NhRP’s position, and the relatively small number who wrote opposing documents, including including, he added wryly, one that described the dairy industry’s certain demise if the court ruled in Happy’s favor. He also explains the intricacies of The Elephant Sanctuary’s support of the cases, conceding that if Happy is released she will likely be moved to the Sanctuary.


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