A case brought by animal activists that claims an elephant is “jailed” by a New York zoo is currently before New York’s highest court.
The elephant, named Happy, is a “cognitively complex non-human animal” that should be released from the Bronx Zoo and transferred to a sanctuary, according to The Nonhuman Rights Project.
More than two dozen New York judges have already ruled against Happy and similar cases, the Bronx Zoo said in December after the case was dismissed by a lower court. But The Nonhuman Rights Project is now celebrating the New York Court of Appeals decision to hear the case.
“This is the first time in history that the highest court in any English-speaking jurisdiction will hear a habeas corpus case brought on behalf of someone other than a human being,” said the Nonhuman Rights Project in a press release. The group called it a “historic elephant rights case”.
October 2018:Elephant named Happy is ‘illegally imprisoned’ in New York zoo, activist group says
Habeas corpus means “you will have the body” and often refers to the justification for detaining a citizen.
Judge Eugene M. Fahey, associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals, has previously written on the matter.
“Can a non-human animal have the right to be released from detention by the habeas corpus order?” Asks Fahey in a 2018 opinion noted by legal observers. “The issue will have to be addressed eventually.”
Happy lived mostly alone at the Bronx Zoo for years after her companion, an elephant named Grumpy, was fatally injured in an incident with other elephants in 2002, according to the Nonhuman Rights Project.
The group says that Happy is the first elephant to pass a self-awareness mirror self-recognition test.
The Bronx Zoo criticized the legal effort, saying it was a publicity and fundraising stunt.
“Essentially the lawsuit was never about what was best for Happy … The NhRP absurdly argued that Happy should be seen as a person and ‘released’ to an elephant sanctuary while also stating in court proceedings that he was not questioning Happy’s welfare at the zoo, “the zoo said in a December statement.
The statement accuses the group of peddling false information to move the case forward: “Happy is not isolated; Happy is not languishing; Happy is not kept indoors for half the year.”
The legal arguments presented by the group are “ridiculous,” said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo in 2018.
Contribute: The Associated Press