“For more than 40 years she was held as a prisoner.”
A New York elephant named Happy is spending his day in court, after activists filed a petition to establish him as a legal person.
As the the wall street journal reportslawyers for the Nonhuman Rights Project have filed a writ of habeas corpus in Happy’s name to establish her legal personality – and thus release her from captivity at the Bronx Zoo, where she has lived and exhibited since 1977, where she was taken when she was only six years old.
“The elephant is imprisoned against its will,” said Steven Wise, Happy’s attorney from NRP. WSJ. “For more than 40 years she was held as a prisoner.”
As the PNR notes on its websiteHappy became the first elephant to ‘pass’ mirror recognition testwhich supposedly indicates an animal’s self-awareness, in 2005. That same year, the site notes, her penmate Sammie was euthanized due to kidney failure, and because she can’t get along with the other elephants at the zoo, she has been practically alone ever since.
After Sammie’s euthanasia, the zoo said it would end the elephants’ captivity once another of their elephants died, although they have yet to do so. But because Happy has remained healthy despite being over 50 now, she’s become “The loneliest elephant in the world”, and is, as the New York Post noted in 2012often kept in cages that are only about twice the length of its body.
Happy’s case, which will be tried in the New York State Supreme Court, is one of many that the NRP and other organizations are undertaking to establish more rights for nonhumans. And given that “legal person” is a thing, there is at least legal precedent for such cases.
READ MORE: Happy the elephant has lawyers pleading to release her from the zoo [The Wall Street Journal]
More elephantine sadness: Congratulations, Earth: Hungry Elephants Eat Trash and Die