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Our mission and values

The NhRP is the only civil rights organization in the United States dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals.

Our groundbreaking work challenges an archaic, unjust legal status quo that views and treats all nonhuman animals as legal “things” with no rights. As with human rights, nonhuman rights are based on fundamental values and principles of justice such as liberty, autonomy, equality, and fairness.

Read our annual reports, 990s, and financial statements here.

The problem

Why do nonhuman animals need rights?

The term animal rights has been around a long time. But what does it actually mean?

It surprises many people to learn that nonhuman animals don’t actually have any enforceable legal rights. For centuries, the law has viewed them as legal “things” with no rights. And, of course, their legal status doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Throughout history, humans have tended to treat the nonhuman world, animals and nature alike, as property that has value only in relation to human need or experience. This mentality, including the idea that we are superior to other animals, is what makes it so easy to exploit nonhuman beings and their natural habitats.

Legally speaking, the rightlessness of nonhuman animals means that, for lawyers to help them in court, they have to make the case for how a human has been harmed by the nonhuman animal’s treatment or situation. If that sounds strange or unfair given all we know about nonhuman animals, that’s because it is, and many court cases that seek justice for nonhuman animals have been lost because of it.

That’s where we come in. Nonhuman animals need and are entitled to rights—actual legal rights, rather than symbolic declarations—and no being should be denied rights simply because of who they are. Simply put, the law has to catch up to what we know about nonhuman animals, and courts and legislatures have to begin figuring out which species are entitled to which rights on what basis. Until this happens, the law will remain chained to the past, nonhuman animals will continue to suffer under poorly enforced, insufficient, easily reversed animal welfare laws, and we humans are going to continue to destroy nonhuman lives and the planet we share with other beings.

Imagine a world where respect for freedom and dignity runs so deep we don’t hesitate to extend it to nonhuman animals. That’s the world we’re working to help build.

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