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#FreeHappy: Appellate court hears landmark case for personhood of Happy the elephant at New York City zoo

Nonhuman Rights Project presents the: "Rally for Freedom for Happy" on August 10, 2019 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. (Photography by Lukas Maverick Greyson / lukasmaverickgreyson.com)

NhRP has argued that Happy has been imprisoned in solitary confinement, notwithstanding the uncontroverted scientific evidence that Happy is an autonomous, intelligent being.

ROBERT GAVIN: Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project [NhRP], asked the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court’s First Department to order a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Happy, a 49-year-old female Asian elephant facing a winter in a windowless enclosure at the zoo. Wise told the court Happy has been “imprisoned on one acre of land in the Bronx Zoo for more than 40 years”…

Wise, whose group wants to see Happy transferred to an elephant sanctuary, said Happy would only have the right to liberty under a habeas corpus writ. He said under New York law, animals can be beneficiaries of trusts… On Feb. 18, Bronx-based state Supreme Supreme Court Justice Alison Tuitt denied the group’s motion, leading to Thursday’s appeal…

A panel of five appellate justices in Manhattan appeared highly skeptical to an attorney’s argument positing the legal “personhood” of an elephant at the Bronx Zoo — with one judge at Thursday’s proceeding asking whether it could lead to the pachyderm having the right to vote… During the virtual arguments, judges’ questions — and at times facial expressions — indicated they were dismissive of Wise’s effort…

“Isn’t all this better suited for the Legislature to act on?” asked Justice Jeffrey Oing, who said the issues raised were substantive policy matters. “I’m very sympathetic to what you’re saying here, but I’m not so sure we’re equipped to handle these kind of (matters)”… Wise countered that… while animal welfare is an issue for lawmakers, questions of rights are for courts…

[IDIOT] Appellate Justice Ellen Gesmer asked Wise if Happy had the right to bodily liberty and was a person, “Does that mean that she would have all the rights, if we decided in your favor … of personhood in our country — including, for example, the right to vote?”… “Because there’s no such thing as having all the rights of a person,” Wise responded. “There’s many different kinds of persons and they have different kinds of rights”…

[ANOTHER IDIOT] Appellate Justice Peter Moulton told Wise his argument “doesn’t answer the question of why a paradigm that was created for one species could possibly apply to another one.” Moulton noted the word “person” appears in the statute for a habeas corpus writ, a legal demand for a prisoner to be produced so a court can determine if imprisonment is lawful. Wise said the issue is not whether Happy is a person but if she has the right to liberty protected by habeas corpus. If so, he said, she is automatically a person, legally speaking…

The Nonhuman Rights Project has argued that Happy has been “imprisoned in solitary confinement, notwithstanding the uncontroverted scientific evidence that Happy is an autonomous, intelligent being with advanced cognitive abilities akin to human beings.” The group said she has been denied direct social contact with other elephants and forced to spend most of her time indoors in a large holding facility…

In 2018, the Court of Appeals declined to hear the group’s appeal in the case of Tommy the chimp, but Associate Judge Eugene Fahey later said he “struggled” with the decision. “Does an intelligent nonhuman animal who thinks and plans and appreciates life as human beings do have the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary cruelties and enforced detentions visited on him or her?” Fahey wrote. “This is not merely a definitional question, but a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention”. SOURCE…

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