Lawyers representing an elephant have argued in New York court that their trunked client be considered a person. Happy the elephant is, contrary to her sunny name, being detained by the Bronx Zoo “illegally”, due to her personhood, and must be released, according to her self-appointed legal team.
The case’s instigator, the Nonhuman Rights Project founded by attorney Steven Wise, hopes for a legal breakthrough that will elevate the status of elephants to have the fundamental right to liberty. Wise has also represented other animals including a dog, a pair of chimps, and a trio of pachyderms.
Wise’s reputation in the animal kingdom has suffered some serious setbacks. In 2017, a New York appeals court ruled that Kiko and Tommy, two chimps in their 30s, could not be considered persons. Then in August, Connecticut decided that three elephants – Beulah, Minnie and Karen – could not be deemed persons.
Wise has been retained by Happy, an animal that can recognize herself in a mirror. Critics of the legal move argue that Happy’s mirror fancy “only proves that she’s a female, or at least that she identifies as one.”
The case took an interesting turn when, during a recent court hearing, Wise argued that Happy is not happy about being pregnant and wants to terminate her pregnancy. Said Happy’s attorney, “My client was in a consensual relationship with an elephant named Grumpy when Happy fell pregnant. Grumpy was killed by two other females in the enclosure – and we know how catty females can be. Well, anyway, Happy does not wish to become a single mother at this point in her life. She can never forget what happened to Grumpy.”
Under state law, an abortion on a person requires an additional judicial review. Wise was unaware of the legal dilemma and asked the court for a recess so he could consult with his client who was not in court.
Polling of Americans has shown strong support for granting animals the same rights as humans. Some philosophers backed the concept arguing that animals have moral standing and shouldn’t be considered merely as property.
Similar polling also showed that the majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton for President in the last election.
Scientists are baffled by the American public’s continued infatuation with elephants.