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Two Judges On New York Supreme Court Rule Elephants Have Constitutional Rights


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Aren’t humans supposed to have dominion over animals?

Well, two judges sitting on New York’s Supreme Court don’t think so.

In a 5-2 decision, New York’s Supreme Court ruled elephants are not human beings with constitutional rights.

The decision comes after The Nonhuman Rights Project challenged a Bronx Zoo’s confinement of an elephant named Happy.

Five of the Judges ruled however “nothing in our precedent or, in fact, that of any other state or federal court, provides support for the notion that the writ of habeas corpus is or should be applicable to nonhuman animals”.

Surpringsly, two of the judges agreed that Happy should be rewarded Constitutional rights.

Politico had more on the story:

Elephants are not human beings with constitutional rights, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

The Nonhuman Rights Project had challenged the Bronx Zoo’s confinement of Happy, a 41-year-old pachyderm. After several of her companions have died, she and Patty — who do not get along — are the only two remaining elephants at the zoo.

The advocacy group had argued that the situation amounted to a cruel confinement. And Happy, as an intelligent being, should be able to sue under habeas corpus rights against improper detention.

But New York’s top court disagreed.

“No one disputes the impressive capabilities of elephants,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote in the majority 5-2 decision. But, she wrote, “nothing in our precedent or, in fact, that of any other state or federal court, provides support for the notion that the writ of habeas corpus is or should be applicable to nonhuman animals.”

BBC Got The Scoop Too:

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Happy the elephant, a long-time resident of the Bronx Zoo, must remain there after a New York court ruled she is not legally a person under US law.

On Tuesday, the state’s highest court voted 5-2 to reject an animal rights group’s argument that Happy was being illegally confined at the zoo.

While elephants are “impressive”, the court said, they are not entitled to the same liberty rights as humans.

The animal rights group sought to have Happy moved to an elephant sanctuary.

The court dispute centred on whether the legal principle of habeas corpus – which guards against illegal detention – should be extended to emotionally complex and intelligent animals.

“While no one disputes the impressive capabilities of elephants, we reject petitioner’s arguments that it is entitled to seek the remedy of habeas corpus on Happy’s behalf,” wrote Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on behalf of the majority.

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