A strange case from Saeed Al-Fil

An elephant is not a legal person entitled to the same rights as actual persons. Who knows? The case was apparently a far cry from the New York State Court of Appeals, which last week required 109 pages to finally come to this very clear conclusion.

The court ruling may finally mark the end of a four-year legal saga as animal rights activists attempt to get Happy, an Asian elephant in his fifties, recognized as a “person” in four separate US courts.

Happy currently lives in the Bronx Zoo in New York, where she has spent most of her life. In 2018, the Nonhuman Rights Project, an animal rights organization, began legal proceedings on Happy’s behalf. She contended that Happi should be considered a legal person, and therefore had the same rights as humans under common law habeas corpus—a fundamental legal principle that has protected people from arbitrary and unlawful imprisonment since the twelfth century. The Non-Human Rights Project, which has the support of some prominent philosophers, has argued that the Bronx Zoo treats animals cruelly and that Said, as an intelligent being, should be able to sue for improper confinement.

The NHRP did not argue that Happy should be free to roam the streets. Instead, the courts have called for her to be moved to a sanctuary, where she is supposed to be happier than at the zoo, where she has only one elephant companion that she hasn’t dealt with. The project said to Washington Post That, unlike a zoo, “the sanctuary is designed to respect the independence of elephants.” It is not entirely clear what constitutes the independence of the elephant. Autonomy? Ethics agency? It’s a mystery.

It is also unclear from the court’s legal submissions whether the Non-Human Rights Project ever sought Happy’s approval for the move, or how it may have expressed a preference for a safe haven over another zoo. In fact, it is not clear how Happy agreed that the non-human rights project should represent her at all.

Unfortunately for Happy, she may have been let down by the arguments of her legal team. The ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals, which was not particularly unanimous, asserted that the habeas corpus doctrine did not apply to the elephant. Chief Justice Janet Devior tore down the allegation that a habeas corpus could be used to move a subject from one illegal prison to another. After all, if, as the Non-Human Rights Project believes, elephants are indeed “legal persons” entitled to the basic rights of “bodily integrity and liberty” and subject to the protection of a habeas corpus, how is it also not a violation of their liberty to be confined to a sanctuary?

The court ultimately ruled that animals are not people worthy of the rights and protections afforded to humans. Defori concluded that judging animals as people would set a precedent with far-reaching consequences. “Indeed, this determination follows to its logical conclusion [that animals are persons] It would call into question the premises behind pet ownership, the use of service animals and the recruitment of animals for other forms of work, she wrote.

But then that was the point of the NHRP case. Happy’s use was to question the distinction between humans and animals. She wants to treat animals as human beings in the eyes of the law. As the Bronx Zoo has argued, the issue was “based on philosophy,” not animal welfare.

This wouldn’t be the last time we hear about the Non-Human Rights Project and its crusade for elephant rights. Such as Washington Post According to reports, the group has filed a similar habeas corpus lawsuit in central California, demanding the release of three elephants at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo on the grounds that they also have the same rights as humans.

It is hard to argue that elephants, along with many other species, are intelligent. As one dissenting judge noted, “An elephant is not an office chair or an earthworm.” so far. But the elephant is not human either. We should not try to treat them that way.

Anne Furedi he is an author The ethical case for abortion: a defense of reproductive choice.

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