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FREE HAPPY: Fifty Animal Law Professors File Court Brief in Support of New York Elephant Rights Case

Happy’s case has also received support from experts in elephant behavior and cognition; philosophy; habeas corpus, and Catholic theology. A petition calling for Happy’s release from solitary confinement has over a million signatures and continues to grow.

LAUREN CHOPLIN: Fifty animal law professors are the latest experts to urge New York’s highest court to hear a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to free Happy the elephant from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary in recognition of her right to liberty… Happy’s case has also received support from experts in elephant behavior and cognition; philosophy; habeas corpus, and Catholic theology… Meanwhile, a Change.org petition calling for Happy’s release from solitary confinement has over a million signatures and continues to grow…

Professor Matthew Liebman, Chair of the Justice for Animals Program at the University of San Francisco School of Law, drafted and coordinated the brief, which also criticizes the serious inconsistencies in the appellate decisions issued in the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases. These decisions erroneously denied the legal right to liberty to the NhRP’s clients on the grounds that they can’t bear duties and responsibilities, and the First Department in part relied on them to dismiss Happy’s case in December of 2020…

“Based on their interest in ensuring the field of animal law develops according to rational principles of justice that are consistent with our legal system’s commitment to equality and liberty,” the group has submitted an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief to the New York Court of Appeals, arguing that the Court should accept the NhRP’s recently filed appeal on behalf of Happy.

Her case, they write, raises novel legal issues of public importance—specifically, “whether our legal system should regard nonhuman animals as legal persons with legitimate claims to justice or, instead, as property that lacks enforceable legal rights.” These issues are “at the philosophical center of the growing field of animal law,” while “popular interest in animal law cases reveals a strong public engagement with the jurisprudential and philosophical questions raised by our legal relationships with animals”…

The NhRP continues to argue that the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, have unlawfully deprived Happy of her freedom, imprisoning her in an exhibit that is “too small to meet the needs of Happy or any elephant,” as elephant expert Dr. Joyce Poole has written in support of Happy’s release. SOURCE…

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