April 2017: An Inside Look at the Fight for Nonhuman Rights
By Lauren Choplin
NhRP Communications Director
April 12, 2017
It might not always feel like it, but there are a lot of people like you in the world: people who care deeply about the rights of nonhuman animals. The NhRP Insiders newsletter is designed to bring together the diverse voices, perspectives, and endeavors that comprise the ever-growing national and global nonhuman rights movement. And most importantly—this includes you!
At its core, this movement is about effecting legal change, and it’s built on a hopeful vision for a more just future for all life on earth. We’re pleased to say this edition of the newsletter is an especially hopeful one as far as legal change is concerned.
Sanctuary At Last
We begin with a monumental change in the life (and legal status) of a single nonhuman animal: Cecilia the chimpanzee. This past week, Cecilia was transferred from the Mendoza Zoo in Argentina to the Great Ape Project’s Sorocabo sanctuary in Brazil. She is the first nonhuman animal in the world to find sanctuary because of a judge recognizing that she is a legal person with fundamental rights. This all came about as a result of litigation brought by an Argentine organization and modeled on the NhRP’s habeas petitions in the US. Sometime in the next week, we’ll publish an interview with sanctuary staff including an update on how Cecilia’s doing and firsthand insights into sanctuary life—look out for an email from us about this amazing story!
Defining a “Legal Person”
Thanks to the NhRP’s legal team, a long overdue change is coming to Black’s Law Dictionary, the leading law dictionary in the US, regarding the definition of a legal person. This development should have an impact on the ongoing chimpanzee habeas corpus cases we’re litigating in New York State. Also worth celebrating: an Indian high court’s recent ruling that two rivers (and the glaciers that feed them) are “persons” with legally enforceable fundamental rights. NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider explains on our blog why animal and environmental advocates should be excited about this ruling.
Animals the Focus of Law Review
Next, we invite you to do a deep dive into the latest issue of the Syracuse Law Review, which, as NhRP attorney Monica Miller highlights on our blog, is all about animal rights law and why nonhuman animals should have legal rights. Some of you might be thinking, “I’m not a lawyer. I’ll drown in there!” Trust me when I say you might find the articles more accessible than you think, especially if you start with NhRP President Steven M. Wise’s retrospective on the NhRP. :)
If, after that, you’re ready for even more law review articles, we suggest this one by attorney Craig Ewasiuk, who argues in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review that in its ruling in Tommy’s case “the New York State Appellate Division, and the authorities relied on by the court, were wrong in claiming that modern social contract theory precludes granting legal rights to animals because the capacity for assuming duties is a precondition for being granted rights.” We’re thrilled to see the legal academy engage with these ideas in such a serious manner—and it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Ewasiuk agrees with us!
Fighting for Tommy & Kiko
The NhRP legal team has brought to the attention of the appellate court in Tommy and Kiko’s cases the Ewasiuk article, the rivers ruling, the error in Black’s Law Dictionary, and the ruling that led to Cecilia’s transfer to a sanctuary. We expect the Court’s decision in the next month or two. Thousands of publications in the US and around the world covered the hearing and are waiting—just as we all are—to see how the judges will rule.
Finally, we come right back to where we started! You and our nonhuman animal clients are at the heart of what we do. That’s why we’re all delighted to be able to share with you, in this edition of the newsletter, an inspiring night the NhRP’s Matthew Dominguez spent at one of the most pioneering animal shelters in the US; NhRP supporter Alexia Norton Jones’s deeply personal story of having known Nim Chimpsky when she was young; NhRP supporter Valerie Traina’s reflections on why she joined the fight for nonhuman rights; and photographer Melissa Tomich’s meditation on what it means to look at animals held in captivity in zoos.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you so much for caring about nonhuman rights, and stay tuned!
P.S. Also in store in the coming weeks: a new campaign. As NhRP Insiders, you’ll be the first to hear about it!
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