Elephants Are Persons?
Life in the circus might often seem like a glamorous one for human performers. But for circus elephants — who campaigners say undergo brutal training and spend much of their life in chains — it can be anything but.OK
Nor, obviously, can elephants choose to leave their show business profession. Yet this may be about to change, as one mystery elephant prepares to make legal history by challenging its captivity in an American courtroom.
The elephant’s identity is currently secret until the court papers are filed, to avoid tipping off the animal’s owners. But lawyers at the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) have already lined up a sanctuary to take the elephant if the ruling goes their way.
In order to prevail, however, the NhRP has to convince a judge that this elephant is not a thing lacking legal standing but a person with the capacity for at least some of the basic rights typically reserved for humans — namely bodily liberty. If successful, the case could radically alter the legal status of some animals. Even if unsuccessful, it is likely to trigger a debate over just exactly how “personhood” is legally defined and whether or not it should be reserved for human beings.