The Fight for Elephant's Rights - Circus, Zoos, and More

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The Fight for Elephant's Rights - Circus, Zoos, and More

 The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP, a national civil organization) is currently moving to free three beautiful elephants from years of slavery in a Connecticut traveling circus.

The elephants, Beulah, Karen and Minnie are "owned" by The Commerford Zoo, located in Goshen, Connecticut, according to Lauren Choplin, NhRP’s Communications Director. The elephants spent all day walking in circles with humans on their back for decades, Choplin said.  

In January 2018, NhRP created a motion with the Connecticut Superior Court to reverse its dismissal of NhRP’s November habeas corpus petition. This petition would be the first lawsuit in the world to ask a court to acknowledge elephants’ fundamental rights, according to a hot press release from NhRP.

“We learned of these elephants' situation several years ago as we were researching potential nonhuman animal clients across the US, as well as the most promising states in which to file suit,” Steve Wise, NhRP President, said.

For years, elephants have been tasked with performing at circuses and zoos across the globe. However, NhRP is fighting for the rights of these majestic creatures

The Superior Court initially dismissed the petition under the idea that the right of freedom and equality are purely human, not animal rights, according to Superior Judge James Bentivegna in a Washington Post article.

According to Wise, he believed that the Superior Court’s dismissal was terribly wrong. The dismissal was based on the idea that NhRP could not sue on behalf of the elephants.

“The court’s dismissal, we believe, was an error,” Wise said. “In response, the NhRP filed a Motion to Reargue in which we argued that the court seriously erred both in stating that the NhRP lacked standing to sue on behalf of the elephants and that our case was frivolous on its face.”

NhRP filed their habeas corpus petition in November. They created #RumbleForRights campaign where millions of people have the ability to advocate for captive elephants’ legal rights on social media, Wise said.

NhRP is currently searching for more elephants in Connecticut to fight for their legal rights as well, Wise said.

“[Beulah, Karen and Minnie] appear to be the only elephants in Connecticut,” Wise said. “If we find more, we’ll also sue to establish their legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty as protected by the common law writ of habeas corpus.”

If the Superior Court reverses their previous decision, the three elephants will go to habitate in an appropriate sanctuary, such as the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California, Wise said.

PAWS’ sanctuaries help former performing animals move into a more relaxing stage of life, according to the organization’s website. The elephants would be specifically housed in ARK 2000, Wise said. The sanctuary is a 2,300-acre natural habitat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

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“No elephants—beings of extraordinary cognitive complexity and autonomy—should ever be held captive against their will.”