I’m still reeling from post-election shock. Who guessed we would wake up on Wednesday morning to such bad news for animals, the environment and the planet. A climate change denier, keen deregulator and a man who acts on impulse in charge of the most powerful country in the world.
So let’s bring a little ray of sunshine in all the gloom, and focus for a moment on some good news coming out of Argentina. Argentina, a major exporter of beef, and not a place that would instantly spring to mind in a discussion on Animal Rights.
But in a court case this week brought on behalf of Cecilia the chimp, a judge ruled that her detention in Mendoza zoo was unlawful. And that she had the right to live in freedom in her own natural habitat.
This only a few months after Buenos Aires’ Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta made his historic announcement – nothing less than the complete closure of the city’s 140 year old zoo, its 2,500 animals to be sent to nature reserves. This man wonderfully said, “This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them”.
He intends that the new ecopark replacing the zoo will be “a place where children can learn how to take care of and relate with the different species. What we have to value is the animals. The way they live here is definitely not the way to do that.”
Then this week, Cecilia – another animal getting her freedom. And though this is but one animal, not 2,500, Cecilia’s release from Mendoza’s zoo is significant. The Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) brought Cecilia’s case to court to obtain a writ of habeas corpus.
A person has the right to petition the courts for a writ of habeas corpus to protest their illegal detention. This is the basis on which lecturer in Animal Rights at Harvard Law School and founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, Steven Wise is petitioning courts in the US, on behalf of his chimp clients Hercules, Leo, Tommy and Kiko, all being kept in captivity. He argues that as nonhuman persons, they have the very basic right of all persons not to be unlawfully detained. Very soon the NhRP will be acting on the same basis for captive elephants.
Habeas corpus was historically used to free slaves and people wrongly imprisoned, and until the last couple of years, never extended to a species other than Homo Sapiens.
The significance of a judge granting a writ of Habeas Corpus for a nonhuman is obvious. It creates a precedent in law for a nonhuman to be defined as a person with certain basic rights.
Talking of the judgement on his case on behalf of Hercules and Leo in 2015, Steven Wise declared, “It’s a breakthrough. The judge is implicitly saying that chimps are—or at least could be—persons.”
But back to Argentina where good things are happening for animals. Two years ago, on behalf of Sandra, a 28 year old orangutan born in captivity, AFADA filed its first petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Buenos Aires court ruled in Sandra’s favour. By so doing they endowed her with the status of a ‘nonhuman person’, wrongfully deprived of her freedom.
It is a little unclear whether Judge Mauricio’s ruling this Monday went as far as granting Cecilia habeas corpus, nonhuman personhood. But she certainly did rule on her right to be be freed from captivity and moved to the Great Ape Project’s sanctuary in Brazil.
Nonhumans do indeed have rights, she told a newspaper. “We’re not talking about civil rights enshrined in the Civil Code. We’re talking about the species’ own rights: development and life in their natural habitat.”
The NhRP in the US are working on obtaining a legally accurate English translation of the lengthy ruling. They want to ascertain precisely what significance it may have for the cases they are bringing under American law.
“After the Sandra orangutan case, we learned that legal decisions that come from a non-English-speaking civil law country may be difficult to translate into terms we English-speaking lawyers easily understand.”
While we are temporarily a little in the dark about the precise nature of Judge Mauricio’s ruling, it’s still great news – another step forward in the fight to get nonhuman animals’ rights enshrined in law. And how good is it that Cecilia is free and able to live a properly fulfilling chimpanzee life in a community of her own kind!
“The legal ‘thinghood’ of all nonhuman animals is the single most important factor preventing humans from vindicating nonhuman animals’ interests.”
Kevin Schneider for the Nonhuman Rights Project.
The Nonhuman Rights Project Mission Statement:
Our mission is to change the legal status of appropriate nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty.
If you wish to donate to the NhRP’s awesome work, click here
Sign the Declaration of Animal Rights here
Update 15th November 2016 After being twice denied, the NhRP has finally won the right to appeal Kiko the chimpanzee’s case. Kiko is nearly 30 years old and partially deaf. At times, Kiko’s “owner” has locked him in a cage or forced him to wear a chain and padlock around his neck.
He belongs in an accredited sanctuary where his right to bodily liberty will be respected—and your support for Kiko’s Fund is the first step to making this happen. If you can, please make your contribution to Kiko’s Fund today.
18th November 2016 Well done again Argentina! Greyhound racing now banned.
Judge Grants Release of Chimp From Zoo Where Arturo the Polar Bear Died – One Green Planet