On December 17, 2020 an appellate court in New York upheld the ruling in February 2020, by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alison Tuitt saying that Happy the Elephant “… is not a ‘person’ and (is) not being illegally imprisoned.”
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a radical animal extremist group, had vowed to appeal the February 2020 decision and did so in July of this year. The group asked the First Department, Appellate Division to grant the 49-year-old Asian elephant “freedom” by a “writ of habeas corpus”- which determines whether a prisoner is jailed or detained lawfully. NhRP wants Happy to be moved to an elephant facility in Tennessee and ultimately use this case to set precedent to establish habeas corpus for other animals.
In the ruling on December 17, 2020, the appellate court found that “the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings.”
They further stated, “A judicial determination that species other than homo sapiens are ‘person’ for some judicial purposes, and therefore have certain rights, would lead to a labyrinth of questions that common-law processes are ill-equipped to answer...”
The ruling continues, “The decisions of whether and how to integrate other species into legal constructs designed for humans is a matter ‘better suited to the legislative process.”
Officials from the Bronx Zoo stated, “Today, the Bronx Zoo won again in the courts. So did common sense. The NhRP sought to have Happy moved to a sanctuary, a demand they made without knowing anything about her unique personality and behavioral traits and having no understanding or regard about what is best for her as an individual.”
“Despite what NhRP says, Happy is not kept in isolation; Happy is not languishing; Happy is not kept indoors for half the year,” the zoo continued on to say. “At this time, the veterinarians, keepers and curators at the Bronx Zoo believe it is best for Happy and the zoo’s other elephant, Patty, to remain in familiar surroundings and allow them to interact with each other and the people they both know, rely on and trust.”
As we warned in our last article about this case, NhRP’s founder and president, Steven Wise, himself an attorney and animal extremist ideologue, is not going to stop. This case involving Happy the Elephant and habeas corpus has been going on for several years. Wise has vowed to appeal this latest decision to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
At Protect The Harvest we have been watching this closely and submitted an Amicus Curiae Brief to the court regarding the arguments made by Steven Wise and the NonHuman Rights Project addressing the practical issues and ramifications of awarding habeas corpus to an animal.
We outlined the ramifications in our previous article, and it bears stating again: “Habeas corpus is a common law civil right; it was written for the people and by the people. Taking the law out of context to make it fit into the animal world reduces the significance of our human civil rights. Habeas corpus was written into our Constitution by our forefathers to protect human beings. Animals were and still are considered a person’s property and thus do not need protection from imprisonment.”
To go against the foundational principle of habeas corpus is to go against the very makeup of our country. A decision to award habeas corpus to an elephant would open the floodgates upsetting societal norms and putting the welfare of all animals at risk.
Fortunately, with the help of partners, we were able to step in via the process of filing an Amicus Curiae Brief. The term amicus curiae means “friend of the court”. This legal step, with the permission of the court, allows an outside party to submit a legal opinion when they have an interest in its outcome. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines amicus curiae as, “One (such as a professional person or organization) that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.” According to the website businessjustice.com the amicus curia brief can play an important, and sometimes critical, role in appellate advocacy by bringing relevant facts and arguments to the court’s attention that the parties have not already addressed.”
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