Non-human rights: Update on Happy’s case

This is straight from the e-mail I received:

Today, Justice Alison Y. Tuitt of the Bronx Supreme Court today issued a decision in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s New York elephant rights case that is powerfully supportive of our legal arguments to free Happy from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary.

While Justice Tuitt “regretfully” denied the habeas corpus relief the NhRP had demanded because she felt bound by prior appellate court decisions in the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases, she essentially vindicated the legal arguments and factual claims about the nature of nonhuman animals such as Happy that the NhRP has been making during the first six years of our rights litigation.

Deeply encouraged by Justice Tuitt’s embrace of the merits of the NhRP’s case following 13 hours of oral argument over three days, we already begun working on our appeal.

In her analysis and conclusion, Justice Tuitt agreed with New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene M. Fahey’s conclusion that an elephant, like a chimpanzee, is not merely a “thing.” Instead, Happy “is an intelligent, autonomous being who should be treated with respect and dignity, and who may be entitled to liberty.” Further, Justice Tuitt rejected the Bronx Zoo’s claim that its continued imprisonment of Happy is good for her, stating that “the arguments advanced by the NhRP are extremely persuasive for transferring Happy from her solitary, lonely one-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo” to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

In late 2018, Happy—currently held alone in an industrial cement structure lined with windowless, barred cages (the zoo’s “elephant barn”) while the elephant exhibit is closed for the winter—became the first elephant in the world to win a habeas corpus hearing intended to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment after the NhRP filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Happy’s behalf. Such world-renowned elephant experts as Dr. Joyce Poole and Dr. Cynthia Moss supported Happy’s rights case while making clear that the Bronx Zoo cannot meet the needs of Happy or any elephant.

While we lament Happy’s continued imprisonment, we thank Justice Tuitt for breaking ground on the long road to securing liberty and justice for Happy and other autonomous nonhuman animals. Happy’s freedom matters as much to her as ours does to us, and we won’t stop fighting in and out of court until she has it.

Anyone who’s become curious should look into the story of Guida, who’d become so severely mentally ill in her confinement that there were serious doubts about the potential for recovery.

Upon release to the Global Elephant Sanctuary in Brazil (sister of that in Tennessee), Guida bounced back remarkably. When having the choice of taking an easy path toward food or picking a difficult one, she was often observed selecting the more challenging path, which required her to climb up an edge (a small straight cliff), which took some effort.

She rejoiced in having the choice and in being able to conquer the cliff.

(I have seen something similar in a pigeon, to my utter astonishment, the animal setting herself a goal, a challenge. Also, pigeons are able to recognize individual human faces, whereas humans generally have a very hard time recognizing individual pigeons.)

Sadly, Guida is no longer with us, but at least she lived the last part of her life in friendship with another elephant and doing the kinds of things that she enjoyed doing.