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Published On: Wed, Nov 22nd, 2017

Nonhuman Rights group fights for Connecticut elephants, give them ‘personhood’

While Dumbo may just be a movie, one group is seeking to attach “personhood” and rights to elephants, arguing legal rights for three Connecticut animals in a zoo.

“The Nonhuman Rights Project’s lawsuit on behalf of the elephants — Minnie, Beulah, and Karen — marks the first time in the world that a lawsuit has demanded that an elephant’s legal right not to be imprisoned and treated as a thing be recognized,” said Steven Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), which filed the suit.

photo/Brandon Jones

Wise is arguing that animals such as elephants, which have complex cognitive and social abilities, should not be counted as “things” under the law, meaning they “lack the capacity for any kind of legal rights,” he said. Instead, the group is pushing for the courts to give the elephants the capacity for “personhood.”

Wise stressed that seeking “personhood” for the elephants is not the same as seeking the full array of human rights.

“The only thing we’re seeking is the single right of bodily liberty that is protected by habeas corpus,” he said.

The group is working to have the three elephants removed from the R.W. Commerford and Sons Traveling Petting Zoo in Connecticut and taken to a sanctuary. The zoo has been found in violation of meeting the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act more than 50 times, according to NhRP.

Wise is also objecting to the elephants being “…subjected to participating in a traveling circus and to being ridden by humans.”

“It is simply immoral and it ought to be illegal to imprison an autonomous being against their will without due process,” he argued.

The group drew attention early last year when they fought “to achieve personhood and the fundamental right to bodily liberty for” Kiko, a chimpanzee in New York.

About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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