Legal News

In’Giant Step’ for Animal Rights, New York’s Highest Court Will Hear Habeas Corpus Case on Behalf of Happy the Elephant, Who Dared in the Bronx Zoo

The New York Court of Appeals–the highest court in the Empire State–agreed to listen to a major animal rights situation on Tuesday.
Within an orders record detailing various recent decisions, the court piled with several motions brought on by The Nonhuman Rights Project and agreed to listen to the habeas corpus case of Joyful the elephant, who has been caged at the Bronx Zoo as 1977.
Her supporters insist she’s attentive to the lonely nation she’s in and notice that Happy was the first wolf to “pass” the mirror self-recognition test, that zoological and mental specialists consider a reliable indicator of self-awareness.
“Kidnapped as a baby from the neighborhood of elephants where she was evolved to flourish, she was imprisoned ever since within an unnatural and unhealthy environment for the only purpose of human profit.” Attorney Elizabeth Stein writes in the appellate motion. “An’involuntary actor in the theater of individual law,’ she’s been stripped bare by that law of her freedom, her social customs, her psychological well-being, and every other entity that makes the life of this incredibly cognitively complex being alive alive.”
“That is one small step for an elephant named Joyful, yet another large step for the animal kingdom,” Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe, who filed an amicus brief in the case, said via Twitter.
Tuesday’s decision marks the first time ever that the highest court in any English-speaking jurisdiction will hear a habeas corpus case for a nonhuman monster.
Lawyers for the animal rights law business have been litigating on the elephant’s behalf since 2018 once they registered for a common law writ of habeas corpus in the New York Supreme Court, Orleans County.
That petition required comprehension of legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty for the”autonomous” pachyderm”[who’s ] being unlawfully imprisoned solely because she is an elephant.” Lawyers also required that Joyful be taken out of the zoo, where she lives in something similar to isolation, and permitted to live the rest of her lifetime in an elephant sanctuary.
The 50-year-old elephant was living alone in the zoo for decades and attorneys state her”situation will turn on whether an extraordinarily cognitively complex” nonhuman animal has legally cognizable protections and rights under the ever-shifting New York law.
This lively jurisprudence, that has regularly been instrumental to some other courts throughout the country,”keeps abreast of rising standards of justice, morality, experience, and scientific discovery as well as a growing New York public policy that already recognizes certain nonhuman creatures as’persons,'” the request notes–citing a 2018 concurring opinion concerning the rights of chimpanzees authored by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Eugene Fahey.
“In November, the exhibition closed for the winter, together with Joyful held within a commercial cement construction lined with windowless, barred cages,” the team noted in a press release earlier this season. “Happy made history in 2005 as the first wolf to demonstrate self-awareness via the mirror test, and in December of 2018 she became the first elephant on earth to have a habeas corpus hearing following the Orleans Supreme Court issued the [Nonhuman Rights Project’s] asked habeas corpus order. In ancient 2019, the Orleans Supreme Court transferred her situation to the Bronx.”
The Bronx County Supreme Court ruled against the effort to secure Joyful’s legal personhood and liberty in ancient 2020–leading to the current appeal before the highest court in New York State.
“In this case, [animal rights attorneys] tried to use the common law writ of habeas corpus, an important legal protection to unlawfully imprisoned human beings. [The Project’s] continued failed attempts to provide habeas corpus to creatures demeans all the folks who have sought such relief. Here is the fifth case [the Project] has lost searching for legal personhood for animals.”
This time, however, the attorneys hope will differ.
Their legal analysis admits that the problem is novel and provides various arguments to advance Joyful’s rights under the legislation –such as the notion that societal contracts don’t produce persons but taxpayers and that”all individuals are born with certain organic rights.”
“Having started the fight for nonhuman faith New York eight decades ago, we are thrilled the Court of Appeals has acknowledged the urgent public value of Happy’s situation and hope she’ll soon turn into the first elephant and nonhuman animal in the US to have her right to bodily liberty judicially recognized.”

The issue whether or not a nonhuman animal has a fundamental right to freedom protected by the writ of habeas corpus is deep and far-reaching. It discusses our relationship with all the life about us. Ultimately, we’re not going to have the ability to discount it.