No, the elephant Happy is not a person, decides the New York justice

As “intelligent” as she is, the elephant Happy is not a person and cannot benefit from human rights, ruled the highest court of the State of New York, putting an end to a battle as much ethical as legal. The New York Court of Appeals had been seized of an appeal by the animal rights association Nonhuman Rights Project which demanded the transfer of Happy from a zoo in the Bronx, where she has lived for 45 years, to a sanctuary. for elephants.

This Asian elephant is “extraordinarily autonomous and complex on a cognitive level” and should be “recognized as a legal person with the right to freedom”, had pleaded the association which introduced similar remedies for other elephants and chimpanzees across the United States.

Giving Happy right would upset all “offences between humans and animals”

Although “elephants are intelligent beings who deserve adequate care and compassion”, this right “does not apply to Happy, a non-human animal who is not a ‘person’ subject to unlawful detention. “, ruled the New York High Court in a judgment delivered Tuesday and written by the head of the Court Janet DiFiore.

For her, proving Happy would upset all “interactions between humans and animals”, in terms of property, in the food industry or medical research. And, after the elephants, “what about dolphins and dogs? Or even cows, pigs or poultry which are kept under much more restrictive conditions?”

“The enormous interest” of this file with the public

Reflecting the great sensitivity of Americans to the animal cause, two of the seven judges of the Court however dissociated themselves from this decision. For them, the Court should have recognized Happy’s right to liberty “not only because she is a wild animal that is not meant to be caged and exhibited, but also because conferring rights to others defines our society”.

In his argument, one of them recalls that the Bronx zoo had exhibited, in 1906 in the monkey space, Ota Benga, a member of the Pygmy people kidnapped in Africa. “Ota Benga was a human being, Happy is not” but “both suffered enormously from their detention”, writes judge Rowan Wilson. To say that after women and slaves it makes “logical” to extend rights to elephants is “an odious comparison”, Justice DiFiore retorted.

In conclusion, she underlined the “enormous interest” that this file aroused among the public. “It testifies to the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and animals”, writes the magistrate, praising “society’s desire to dialogue on the subject”. She hoped, however, that it would continue in legislatures rather than the courts.

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