Yesterday, I was honored to speak at a screening of Unlocking the Cage at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ. In a room full of dedicated animal advocates, I found myself inspired by those who spent their Saturday night watching a film about the work we’re doing to win fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.
During my travels, I’ve had the privilege of visiting hundreds of shelters across this country and very few can come close to matching the impact and vision of St. Hubert’s. Lead by Heather Cammisa, President & CEO, and a team full of dedicated staff members (and hundreds of volunteers), St. Hubert’s excels at providing direct care for the companion animals in their community. But St. Hubert’s also goes above and beyond the mission of your typical local shelter: they’ve adopted progressive policies on diverse issues, including animals raised for food, the fur industry, debarking and declawing,euthanasia, cosmetic surgery, animals in entertainment, racing, rodeos, zoos and aquaria, hunting, trapping, and as they announced last night, the use of animals in testing.
Watching the film for the umpteenth time, I still find myself teary-eyed during several parts of the film. It’s clear to me, and many people who watched the film, that nonhuman animals such as chimpanzees deserve at least the fundamental legal right to bodily liberty (freedom from being imprisoned). A violation of that right is no less an injustice than a violation of any of my fundamental rights. I don’t believe that I’m so morally superior compared to the rest of creation that chimpanzees and other autonomous beings—as a matter of fairness and justice—shouldn’t also be able to act on the most basic desire to be free.
I’m encouraged by the outpouring of support we’ve received since HBO released Unlocking the Cage, and I have no doubt that in my lifetime, if we work together, nonhuman animals will go through a legal transformation from things without rights to living beings with rights.
A big thank you to Nora Parker, Danielle Mania, Marianne Bosshart, and Heather Cammisa for hosting this wonderful event and to everyone who attended. And a special thanks to two amazing animal advocates, Zora Sabrina and Daran Haber: your devotion to and compassion for those who can’t speak for themselves inspire me each and every day.