She has four limbs, expressive eyes and enjoys walking in New York’s greenery – but Happy the elephant can’t be considered a person, a court has ruled.
Happy, an elephant born in the wild in Asia in the early 1970s, was captured as a year old in the early 1970s and brought to the United States.
She has lived at the Bronx Zoo in New York for 45 years.
Activists from the Nonhuman Rights Project argue that Happy deserved the right to be seen as a person and is therefore illegally confined to the zoo.
The zoo maintains that she is neither illegally imprisoned nor a person.
The question of whether fundamental human rights can be extended to an animal was posed to the New York one Supreme Court, which ruled that Happy could not be considered a person unlawfully confined to the zoo.
Expanding Happy’s right to challenge his zoo confinement “would have a tremendous destabilizing impact on modern society” and granting legal personality would affect how humans interact, according to majority state Court of Appeals decision with the animals.
The ruling upholds a lower court ruling and means the elephant will not be released into a larger sanctuary.
It said: “Indeed, taken to its logical conclusion, such a determination would call into question the very premises that underlie the ownership of pets, the use of service animals and the enlistment of ‘animals in other forms of work.’
Two of the seven appeals judges, Rowan Wilson and Jenny Rivera, wrote separate and specific dissents, saying that the fact that Happy is an animal does not preclude him from having legal rights.
Ms Rivera wrote that Happy is being held in “an environment which is not natural to her and which does not allow her to live her life”.
She added: “Her captivity is inherently unjust and inhumane. It is an affront to a civilized society, and every day she remains captive – a spectacle for humans – we too are diminished.”
The zoo and its supporters have warned that a victory for Nonhuman Rights Project activists could open the door to more legal action on behalf of animals, including pets, farm animals and other species in zoos.
You Can Read Also