Do Elephants Have The Same Rights As Humans? Activist Group Argues Yes

December 14, 2018 - 1:41 pm

ALBION, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — An animal rights group is arguing for the freedom of one of the Bronx’s Zoo's largest residents.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is arguing the first-of-its-kind case on behalf of an elephant named Happy, who they say has been living in solitude for years.

According to executive director Kevin Schneider, the 47-year-old Asian elephant has been observed swaying and pacing alone in her enclosure at the Bronx Zoo.

“It's documented and our experts have attested to the fact that: yes, this is, in a sense, her saying that she is extremely discontent with her surroundings,” Schneider said.

They're asking an Orleans County judge to grant Happy a writ of habeas corpus, so she can be placed in a much larger animal sanctuary.

“Before the advent of criminal laws we know it, habeas was an essential safeguard for liberty, it was the stop gap,” Schneider explained.

For the past 12 years, Happy has lived mostly alone after her companion, an elephant named Grumpy, was killed in an incident with other elephants.

Most recently, an elephant companion named Maxine, who had been at the Bronx Zoo when Happy arrived in 1977, also died.

In 2005, Happy was one of the first elephants to pass a mirror self-recognition test, which is considered to be an indicator of self-awareness.

Now, the animal rights group is arguing that Happy is entitled to be freed from her confinement as a legal person, not a “thing.”

Though, Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny has harshly criticized the legal action, calling the lawsuit “ludicrous” and accusing the Nonhuman Rights Project of exploiting the Bronx Zoo elephants to “advance their own failing cause.”