Update in Connecticut Elephant Rights Case
Litigation - Article Series from All-Creatures.org Articles Archive

FROM NonhumansRights.org
May 2020

The question of a nonhuman animal’s legal personhood and rights is a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is disappointed that today’s ruling from the Connecticut Appellate Court appears to repeat the legal errors it made in our first bid to free the elephants imprisoned and exploited by the Commerford Zoo, with Minnie now the traveling circus’s sole surviving elephant following the deaths of both Beulah and Karen this past year.

The court’s continued assertion that in Connecticut a third party, such as the Nonhuman Rights Project, cannot bring a habeas corpus case that demands that an autonomous being who has long been considered to be a rightless legal thing should now be considered a legal person—able to have her right to bodily liberty asserted by that third party—not only contradicts almost two centuries of Connecticut law, but also the law of every English-speaking jurisdiction in the world.

As we consider how best to continue our fight for Minnie’s release to The Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary or The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee—where she’ll be able to roam freely in an appropriate climate, with the opportunity to form bonds with other elephants and no bullhook in sight—we emphasize that our litigation isn’t just about the legally invisible suffering of nonhuman animals who want and need to live freely just as we do. It’s also about whether we value liberty enough to extend it past the arbitrary boundaries of our own species.

In New York, courts are beginning to recognize, in the words of Bronx Supreme Court Judge Alison Y. Tuitt, that an elephant is “an intelligent, autonomous being who should be treated with respect and dignity, and who may be entitled to liberty” and, in the words of New York Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Fahey, that the question of a nonhuman animal’s legal personhood and rights is “a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.” When will the courts of Connecticut do the same?

Return to: Litigation