The law acknowledges numerous things as people. Humans are people, municipalities, state, and federal offices are regarded as people, corporations are people, and now more recently they are claims that elephants should be legally recognized as people.
Steve Wise, the founder of the “Nonhuman Rights Project” has filed a lawsuit on behalf of three elephants. Wise has made history by filing the first lawsuit that claims elephant’s have a right not to be imprisoned and a right to be treated as a person.
Wise does not expect the religious of pachyderms to be acknowledged. In fact, Wise is not seeking to afford elephants the same rights as U.S. citizens. According to Wise, the one thing that he is after is for the right of bodily liberty as provided by habeas corpus. Wise’s efforts are aimed at freeing three elephants, Minnie, Beulah and Karen, held at R.W. Commerford and Sons Traveling Petting Zoo, Connecticut. The elephants have been detained in this home owned facility for decades.
Wise wants the elephants moved to a sanctuary claiming that it should be illegal to detain an autonomous being by force without due process.
The Nonhuman Rights Project’s Similar Lawsuits
The Nonhuman Rights Project has filed a similar lawsuit in the past. In 2014, the group sought to bestow civil rights on a chimp. The 26-year-old chimp going by the name “Tommy” was the subject of the lawsuit as the group attempted to secure custody from his New York owners.
The argument by the Nonhuman Rights Project would not see the light of day since legally, a person was considered to be any one who was able to take on legal duties and be held accountable for their actions. Chimpanzees can neither take on legal duties nor be held responsible for their actions. It was; therefore, deemed inappropriate to afford them legal personhood.
The current case on elephants is likely to result in the same outcome since elephants also have no understanding of the law and cannot be deemed responsible for their actions. If anything, the owners are the ones to be held liable for the actions of the elephants. However, if the court was to grant a writ, it would allow the elephants to challenge the legal grounds of their detention and recognize their personhood. This would result in significant changes in the legal status of animals, which are legally regarded as animals. It will be interesting to see how the court will rule in this case.