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Happy New Year from the NhRP!

By Kevin Schneider

Ours is a legal fight many years in the making. But a lot can change for the better in a single year. We made it happen in 2018 and now we need your help to make it happen again in 2019! Below are some highlights of what we accomplished together in 2018. Support the NhRP today to help us continue our fight and secure justice for nonhuman animals in the year ahead.

Litigating the personhood and rights of elephants

We took on a new client: Happy, a 47-year-old Asian elephant who has lived alone in captivity on a small plot of land at the Bronx Zoo for many years. Two months after the NhRP sued on Happy’s behalf, she became the first elephant in the world to gain a habeas corpus hearing, which The Atlantic recently called “a unique moment to reflect on the status of animals and the law” in a newly published article about our mission and work. This article and another recent in-depth article in The Economist detail many of the victories we’ve achieved and the obstacles we’ve overcome since we filed our first suits in 2013.

“There is no doubt that [a chimpanzee] is not merely a thing”

One such victory was the opinion of New York Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Fahey in our chimpanzee rights cases on behalf of Tommy and Kiko. “To treat a chimpanzee as if he or she had no right to liberty protected by habeas corpus is to regard the chimpanzee as entirely lacking independent worth, as a mere resource for human use, a thing the value of which consists exclusively in its usefulness to others,” he wrote. “The issue whether a nonhuman animal has a fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus is profound and far-reaching … While it may be arguable that a chimpanzee is not a “person,” there is no doubt that it is not merely a thing.”

“It is common knowledge” that nonhuman animals can be persons

Just four weeks later, a New York intermediate appellate court wrote, “it is common knowledge” that nonhuman animals can be legal persons with rights, citing to a ruling in the NhRP’s case on behalf of Kiko. As with all our clients, we remain committed to freeing Tommy and Kiko from their imprisonment and are working on our next steps in this regard.

Peace, dignity, and autonomy for NhRP clients Hercules and Leo

At its core, our work is about changing the world for nonhuman animals who’ve endured great injustice at the hands of humans and human institutions. This year, the world changed for our chimpanzee clients Hercules and Leo, who are finally free from the New Iberia Research Center and Stony Brook University thanks in part to the litigation we brought on their behalf. The first nonhuman animals in the world to have had a habeas corpus hearing, Hercules and Leo are now living autonomous lives at Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia.

Speaking out and fighting for the freedom of our Connecticut elephant clients

After a troubling photo of our Minnie giving rides at the Big E went viral, we talked to local media about their suffering as legal “things” with no rights and our ongoing litigation on their behalf. Their case now has the support of Connecticut’s foremost expert on legal ethics as well as esteemed philosophers and habeas corpus experts. We’re planning a rally and vigil for the Commerford elephants in Worcester, MA, on February when the Commerford Zoo will again transport them to a stadium to give rides and take photos. If you’re in the area, we’d love for you to join us in calling for the Commerford Zoo to release them to a sanctuary—as we’re also doing in our online petition, which almost 200,000 people have signed since it went live in November.

Nonhuman rights legislation

Over the last several months, we’ve been hard at work getting ready to launch the world’s first nonhuman rights ordinance. We can’t disclose the city until the day the ordinance is introduced but we’ll definitely need your help when this happens! As with our litigation, our legislation has been carefully thought out and planned so as to have the best chance of success in securing rights for the designated species. Stay tuned!

Continuing to connect with nonhuman rights advocates the world over

This year, the NhRP met with local activists, lawyers, and judges in Israel, India (which is already recognizing that nonhuman animals have legal rights), Hong Kong, and Malaysia to discuss how best to work together to secure legal rights for animals. At the same time, NhRP legal working groups all over the world continued to plan their next steps with assistance from the NhRP legal team and our International Coordinator. Nonhuman animals’ lack of rights is truly a global problem and ours is a global struggle. None of it will be easy, but we cannot continue to treat all nonhuman animals as “things” with no rights: for their sake and ours.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year and beyond. We couldn’t do any of this work without you.

Please consider making a year-end gift today. The speed and extent with which we secure legal rights for nonhuman animals in 2019 is in your hands.

Happy New Year from all of us at the NhRP, and here’s to continuing to build a more just world for all in 2019!

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