Why an Albany, NY Court Has to Decide if an Elephant is a Person
Don't get me wrong, every single animal deserves to have a happy, healthy life.
That's not a controversial take, it's the law. Pets, service animals, or animals in zoos deserve to have room to roam, plenty of food and water, and anything else that helps their species thrive.
That all being said, at the end of the day, an animal is not a human being. If you don't believe me, you can ask the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany, New York, which had to make that determination earlier this week.
An Elephant is Not a Human Being, Rules an Albany, NY Court
Albany, New York's New York State Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that Happy the Elephant, an elephant that lives at The Bronx Zoo, is not due the same rights as a human being, according to a story from Politico.
Yes, I was confused, as well, so allow me to explain. Happy is a 41-year-old elephant, that lives in a habitat at The Bronx Zoo in New York City. Happy lives with one other pachyderm, named Patty, and the story claims that the two do not get along. This is creating a hostile living environment for Happy, something that has upset people at The Nonhuman Rights Project.
News station WION did a story on this groundbreaking court case:
The group claims that Happy, who again, is an elephant, has the right to sue for improper detention, according to the story. The reason? A centuries old Latin legal term, called habeas corpus.
Let's go to the books! According to Britannica, habeas corpus is "an ancient common-law writ [that] is that used to correct violations of personal liberty by directing judicial inquiry into the legality of a detention." To translate, this concept allows a court to examine if someone is being kept somewhere legally, or if they're due better conditions while detained.
The advocacy group mentioned above is arguing that, because Happy is an intelligent being, he/she/it/they can use habeas corpus in order to obtain better living conditions. Surprising to no one, the Albany, New York-based court disagreed, stating that Happy was not a human being, and was not due anything related to habeas corpus.
It wasn't unanimous, however, as the story explains that two of the seven judges produced dissenting opinions. This, I find to be hilarious.
Here are a few quotes from the judges involved, to help finish painting this picture:
“The relief requested is not discharge from confinement altogether but, rather, a transfer of Happy from one confinement to another of slightly different form—an implicit acknowledgement that Happy, as a nonhuman animal, does not have a legally cognizable right to be at liberty under New York law." - Chief Judge Janet DiFiore from Politico
“All can agree that an elephant is not a member of the homo sapiens species. At the same time, an elephant is not a desk chair or an earthworm.” - Judge Rowan Wilson (dissenting) from Politico
What a world we live in.