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Nature & Environment

Zoo elephant 'is not a person' court rules

By T.K. Randall
June 15, 2022 · Comment icon 13 comments

Should elephants be classed as people ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Geir Kiste
An elephant named 'Happy' has been the subject of a legal battle to have her released back into the wild.
The 51-year-old elephant, who now resides at Bronx Zoo in New York, was actually born in the wild in Thailand in the 1970s before being captured and brought to the United States.

In recent months she has been the subject of a court case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project which maintains that it is illegal to hold the animal captive because she is sufficiently emotionally intelligent to be considered a person and deserves basic human rights.

The ultimate aim of the case was to have the elephant released from captivity.
Sadly for Happy, however, the court ruled that the legal principles which protect humans from unlawful incarceration do not apply to elephants.

"While no one disputes the impressive capabilities of elephants, we reject petitioner's arguments that it is entitled to seek the remedy of habeas corpus on Happy's behalf," wrote Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

"Habeas corpus is a procedural vehicle intended to secure the liberty rights of human beings who are unlawfully restrained, not nonhuman animals."

Source: BBC News | Comments (13)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Robotic Jew 11 months ago
Meh. If Corporations and Zygotes are people then so too can Elephants be I guess.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Doug1066 11 months ago
I hope so too.  Maybe it could be placed in a safari park with other elephants.  We have several of those around the US. Doug
Comment icon #6 Posted by Autochthon1990 11 months ago
Well now there are some issues around Elephant Cognition, they're very intelligent and DO express emotion. They're not on the same level as humans in terms of cognitive ability, but they're closer than the vast majority of all other species. I would argue that you can do stuff with say, fish and lizards that wouldn't be acceptable for Elephants. 
Comment icon #7 Posted by Still Waters 10 months ago
Happy the elephant isn't a person, top New York court rules New York's top court on Tuesday rejected an effort to free Happy the elephant from the Bronx Zoo, ruling that she does not meet the definition of "person" who is being illegally confined. The 5-2 decision by the state Court of Appeals affirms an earlier court decision and means Happy will not be released through a habeas corpus proceeding, which is a way for people to challenge illegal confinement. The majority decision written by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that "while no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deservin... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Myles 10 months ago
It is nice to see a sane decision made.  I do wonder about the 2 who voted that the elephant is a person.
Comment icon #9 Posted by jethrofloyd 10 months ago
I wonder what Joseph Merrick - "the Elephant Man" would say about this verdict if he could?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Occupational Hubris 10 months ago
Th earguemnet is that hebus corpus should apply to teh elephant, since she subject to unlawful detention or impiriomeny considering she was "born in the wild in Asia in the early 1970s, captured and brought as a 1-year-old to the United States."
Comment icon #11 Posted by Aardvark-DK 10 months ago
Hm, it still looks better than my x-wife, and she was barely human...
Comment icon #12 Posted by taniwha 10 months ago
While on the other corner of the world.. New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being's After 140 years of negotiation, M?ori tribe wins recognition for Whanganui river, meaning it must be treated as a living entity       Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin Thu 16 Mar 2017 04.50 GMTLast modified on Mon 11 Jan 2021  In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being. The local M?ori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river – the third-largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor 
Comment icon #13 Posted by OverSword 10 months ago
Although zoo's, aquariums, wildlife parks, etc. have been essential in humans better understanding the needs of animals in their care which has translated into our being able to better help animals in the wild, I do believe that for the most part they are ultimately inhumane the way the y have been historically run.  There are cases that are exceptions such as the mountain lion cub recently found in a classroom.  Those cats require their mother to provide for them for a few years and are taught how to survive by that parent without which they are doomed in the wild so a facility run by people ... [More]

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