Today the New York Court of Appeals became the highest court of an English-speaking jurisdiction to hear a case demanding a legal right for a nonhuman being. Below are remarks prepared by NhRP Attorneys Monica Miller and Elizabeth Stein for delivery outside the courthouse in Albany immediately following the historic hearing to #FreeHappy from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary.
Remarks, as prepared for delivery, by NhRP Attorney Monica Miller on May 18, 2022, after the hearing:
It has been a tremendous honor to argue for Happy’s right to liberty today–not just for Happy but for all elephants.
As we hoped, the judges asked the kind of questions Happy deserves–questions that go to the heart of her case and what we, what you, and what people in New York and around the world recognize as the injustice of her thinghood, or rightlessness.
With your support, we made the strongest case possible for her freedom and responded to the judges’ questions with all the rigor Happy deserves, pointing to the centuries of precedent, and the robust, diverse support, that are on the side of granting her release from unlawful imprisonment in the Bronx Zoo.
In the coming weeks, this Court will have the opportunity to delve into our written arguments and all the briefs and affidavits filed in support and decide whether to do the right thing under New York law by bringing elephants’ legal status into the 21st century. They must also overturn the appellate court decision in our chimpanzee rights cases that wrongly, and dangerously, held that you have to be able to bear duties to have legal rights.
We know the day is coming soon when courts around the world will understand and condemn the suffering and rightlessness of beings like Happy. Some courts have already begun to.
As Steve said before Happy’s hearing, no matter what happens next, the mere fact that we’re here today is a victory for elephants and for the global fight for nonhuman animal rights, and we’re grateful to our supporters for joining us to help send a loud and clear message: the time has come to recognize and protect elephants’ right to liberty and consider nonhuman animals as rights-holders.
Remarks, as prepared for delivery, by NhRP Attorney Elizabeth Stein on May 18, 2022, after the hearingRemarks by NhRP Attorney Monica Miller:
Thank you Monica! And thank you to our supporters for being here with us, for Happy, on this beautiful day.
Today, in arguing for Happy’s right to liberty, we honor who elephants are.
Who Happy could be if the Court of Appeals does its duty and orders her release to a sanctuary where she can regain her autonomy and dignity and live freely with other elephants.
Happy doesn’t know we’re gathered here on this historic day to fight for her freedom. For her, today is exactly like yesterday and the day before.
Happy’s plight at the Bronx Zoo is beyond dispute. But depending on what the Court of Appeals decides, Happy’s tomorrow can be very different. She can spend the rest of her life as an elephant and not a prisoner.
Happy, you can’t hear us calling for your right to liberty, just as you can’t hear the rumbles and trumpets of the herd you were stolen from half a century ago.
But we’ll never stop calling for it, and for the freedom of all elephants, and we hope you’ll soon be able to become an elephant again and enjoy all the richness of elephant life.
Again, we thank you for being part of this fight to free Happy and helping to build a more just world for all.
Find all the latest on the fight for Happy’s freedom and ways to take action on our #FreeHappy campaign page.