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Our first Hawaii hearing

By Jake Davis

Yesterday in Honolulu with NhRP supporters in attendance, I was honored to appear in court on behalf of elephants Mari and Vaigai to make the case for why theyā€™re entitled to the fundamental right to liberty and their release from unlawful imprisonment in the Honolulu Zoo.

The 45-minute hearing went well in the sense that Judge Gary W.B. Chang asked exactly the kind of probing, thoughtful questions we hope for in all our casesā€“questions that indicate how seriously courts are now taking the issue of nonhuman animal rights. Adopting a philosophical approach to the issues raised, Judge Chang allotted more time for the hearing than expected, which allowed all the core arguments to be discussed to some degree.

Unfortunately, Judge Chang granted the zooā€™s motion to dismiss the case because he believes habeas corpus is limited to humans. As we maintain, the writ is not so limited; its protections can and should be extended in order to remedy the unjust imprisonment of beings like Mari and Vaigai.

Judge Chang, seeming to understand and sympathize with Mari and Vaigaiā€™s suffering, dismissed the case ā€œwithout prejudiceā€ in the event that ā€œthere is another remedy at law aside from habeas corpus.ā€ You might be wondering if thereā€™s indeed another legal remedy to free Mari and Vaigai. Isnā€™t there an easier way?

Unfortunately, no. To our and your rightful outrage, existing animal welfare laws consistently fail nonhuman animals like Mari and Vaigai, normalizing their imprisonment as long as their captors do the bare minimum to keep them alive. The insufficiency of animal welfare laws aside, Mari and Vaigai are entitled to have the injustice of their imprisonment remedied through the Great Writ, which is meant to safeguard the freedom Mari and Vaigai have long been denied.

Achieving habeas corpus for nonhuman animals is a long and difficult roadā€“full of obstacles, both expected and unexpected. But the unjust status quo must change, however long it takes, and our team at the NhRP is fully prepared for the many fights ahead. In the coming weeks, we plan to appeal Judge Changā€™s decision because the law and the science are clear: habeas corpus isnā€™t limited to humans, and Mari and Vaigai will continue to suffer while unjustly imprisoned at the Honolulu Zoo. They urgently need and deserve to regain their freedom in an elephant sanctuary.

You can help today by signing Mari and Vaigaiā€™s petitionĀ if you havenā€™t already.

On behalf of everyone at the NhRP, thank you for your support for this case.

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