Live stream from New York Appeals Court open to media
NEW YORK, Nov. 11, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —
|Oral arguments in the landmark elephant rights case filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) on behalf of Happy, a 49-year-old Asian elephant held alone in captivity at the Bronx Zoo. In November, the exhibit closes for the winter, with Happy held in an industrial cement structure lined with windowless, barred cages (the zoo’s “elephant barn”) until the exhibit reopens in May.
|Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020
Between 2-5 pm Eastern
(NhRP will receive 10-minute advance notice; will then notify all confirmed press)
starts 15 minutes after conclusion of Oral Arguments
|Links to Oral Arguments and Press Conference will be provided upon RSVP to [email protected]
|Nonhuman Rights Project Founder and President Steven M. Wise, and Elizabeth Stein, New York legal counsel for NhRP, will argue on Happy’s behalf. The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, legislation, and education to secure fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.
Attorneys with Phillips Lytle LLP will argue for the Wildlife Conservation Society (which manages the Bronx Zoo) and James Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo.
A panel of three judges will hear the case. They are not expected to rule from the bench on the 19th.
|The question of whether an autonomous nonhuman animal is a legal person with the fundamental right to liberty is, in the words of Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Fahey regarding the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases, “a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.” The NhRP will argue that the First Judicial Department “can and should now put an end to the injustice of Happy’s decades-long imprisonment at the Bronx Zoo and grant her freedom.” As world-renowned elephant expert Dr. Joyce Poole has written in support of Happy’s elephant rights case, “Simply put, the Bronx Zoo’s exhibit is too small to meet the needs of Happy or any elephant. Happy deserves to live the rest of her life at [a sanctuary] where the utmost care will be given to her individual needs and she’ll have the space and conditions needed to heal and to form psychologically necessary bonds with other elephants.”
The case has also received support from world-renowned legal scholar and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe. In July 2020, Professor Tribe requested leave to file an amicus brief in support of a habeas corpus petition filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) on behalf of Happy.
|Happy made history in 2005 as the first elephant to demonstrate self-awareness via the mirror test, and in December of 2018 she became the first elephant in the world to have a habeas corpus hearing after the Orleans Supreme Court issued the NhRP’s requested habeas corpus order. In early 2019, the Orleans Supreme Court transferred her case to the Bronx.
For over 10 hours spread across two days in September and October of 2019, the NhRP argued in Bronx Supreme Court for recognition of Happy’s right to liberty and release to a sanctuary. Both the duration and substance of these hearings were unique for arguments on preliminary motions. Justice Alison Y. Tuitt scheduled a third court date in Jan. 2020 to provide ample time to delve into the most pressing issues in Happy’s case, such as who counts as a legal person with rights and why Happy must be released to a sanctuary.
Alongside the NhRP’s litigation, its grassroots advocacy campaign on behalf of Happy has gained significant momentum, drawing the support of influential public figures such as Queen guitarist Brian May, elected officials such as New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and animal advocates in New York and around the world. A Change.org petition calling for Happy’s release from solitary confinement has over a million signatures and continues to grow. In October 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on Happy’s plight, telling WNYC “something doesn’t feel right” about keeping Happy in the Bronx Zoo.
The NhRP expects to further address the core merits of Happy’s habeas corpus petition—that she is a legal person with the fundamental right to liberty who must be released to either The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee or the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California. For details about the appeal, see this press release.
|The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, legislation, and education to secure fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.
In 2015, the NhRP secured the world’s first habeas corpus hearing on behalf of a nonhuman animal in its chimpanzee rights case on behalf of Hercules and Leo, who were used in locomotion research at Stony Brook University.
|THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC. on behalf of HAPPY, Petitioner, v. JAMES J. BREHENY, in his official capacity as Executive Vice President and General Director of Zoos and Aquariums of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo, and WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (Appellate Case No. 2020-02581)