The New York Court of Appeals ruled that Happy the Elephant is not a person.
Yes, you read that correctly. NBC reports that the state’s highest court ruled that an elephant living in the Bronx Zoo is not a person.
The Nonhuman Rights Project, an animal rights organization, brought this unusual action to “free” Happy. Without getting too bogged down in the legal buffoonery, Nonhuman Rights Project claimed Happy was being detained illegally and mistreated.
As the Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote:
[W]hile no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion, the courts below properly granted the motion to dismiss the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.NYS Court of Appeals
Additionally, Chief Judge DiFiore pointed to the practical problem of ruling that animals have personhood rights. Namely, the end to farming, services animals, pet ownership, and the like.
Interestingly enough, two Judges disagreed:
[T]he legal question presented is whether the detention of an elephant can ever be so cruel, so antithetical to the essence of an elephant, that the writ of habeas corpus should be made available under the common law. The history of the “‘greatest of all writs’” demonstrates that the majority’s claimed reasons for refusing to extend it to Happy are groundless and inconsistent with its role as “the historic writ of liberty” that “cannot be curtailed by legislative action.”Rowan D. Wilson
The Nonhuman Rights Project responded:
[T]his is not just a loss for Happy, whose freedom was at stake in this case and who remains imprisoned in a Bronx Zoo exhibit. It’s also a loss for everyone who cares about upholding and strengthening our most cherished values and principles of justice–autonomy, liberty, equality, and fairness–and ensuring our legal system is free of arbitrary reasoning and that no one is denied basic rights simply because of who they are.Lauren Choplin
First, well duh. Now, we’re not biologists. But, it seems to be waste of time and money for… literally everyone for stating the obvious: that an elephant is not a person.
Second, Asian elephants live, on average, about forty-eight years. Considering that Happy has lived in the Bronx Zoo, (and not Joe Exotic’s Zoo) longer than that, we doubt the claims of mistreatment.
Third, we do not know many pet owners who are willing to give up our four-legged family. So, if the Court ruled to grant Happy personhood, New York pet owners may join the exodus leaving the state.
Finally, perhaps Nonhuman Rights Projects would have better spent their money buying Happy instead of funding multiple proceedings. Granted, that might have undermined its argument that people and animals are the same. But, at least they would have avoided, in our opinion, what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit.
However, we are certain of more buffoonery to come from the Nonhuman Rights Project. In fact, Steven Wise, the litigious organization’s founder, stated, “We will take a really close look at why we lost and we’ll try to make sure that that doesn’t happen again to the extent that we can.”
But, let’s also give a dishonorable mention to Judges Jenny Rivera and Rowan D. Wilson, who actually bought the Nonhuman Rights Projects’ arguments.