Habeas News

David Cassuto

This is an important, potentially historic oral argument.  Go if you can:

 

 

Appellate Division, First Department, County Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument in Two Chimpanzee Rights Cases Filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project

The Nonhuman Rights Project will argue its appeal of the failure of the New York County Supreme Court to issue writs of habeas corpus on behalf of two captive chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko, in a hearing at the Appellate Division, First Department, Supreme Court in Manhattan at or after 2 p.m. on March 16th.

The ruling that results from the hearing may determine whether Tommy and Kiko—both featured in the new HBO documentary Unlocking the Cage—will be recognized as legal persons with the fundamental right to bodily liberty or remain “things” deprived of even a single right. Continue reading

2013: The Year for Non-Human Rights—Maybe for Chimps

chimpanzee

Spencer Lo

Near the end of 2012, Popular Science published an article predicting the top 15 science and technology news stories of this year, with many interesting items such as: “Black Hole Chows Down,” “Supercomputer Crunches Climate,” and “New Comet Blazes by Earth.” One prediction in particular, however, may come as a surprise to readers, and will undoubtedly be welcome news and an inspiration to animal advocates everywhere. I am referring to the seventh “news byte” on the list, which reads:

Animals Sue For Rights

Certain animals—such as dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants, and parrots—show capabilities thought uniquely human, including language-like communication, complex problem solving, and seeming self-awareness. By the end of 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project plans to file suits on the behalf of select animals to procure freedoms (like protection from captivity) previously granted only to humans.  Read More

Don’t Look an Embezzled Horse in the Mouth

Seth Victor

I encourage everyone to read Angelique Rivard’s excellent summary of Steven Wise’s resent presentation at the Dyson Lecture Series, which explored the future of animal legal standing and animal personhood. Mr. Wise’s theories were on my mind when I heard last week’s Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me.  Some of you might have heard that Rita Crundwell, comptroller in Dixon, IL, has been accused of embezzling $53 million from her town. As Peter Segal states, “Now the government wants to seize her assets that she got with her ill begotten gains and that means, according to the law, they have to file a suit against the horses themselves. So the case is on the court docket, as United States of America versus Have Faith In Money, et al.”

Getting a horse’s name on a docket is notable, but I’m sure not for the reasons Mr. Wise hopes. We’ve still a long way to go to move horses from “assets” to “persons.”

Steve Wise’s Lecture — A Resounding Success

Angelique Rivard
Have you ever wondered what informs human rights?  Steven Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has explored that question and many others through historical, philosophical, scientific, and legal lenses.

On last Thursday, April, 26th, Steven Wise, acclaimed animal lawyer and professor, brought insight, engagement and humor to the Pace Law School’s Dyson Lecture Series, delivering a riveting presentation on The Nonhuman Rights Project’s Struggle for Nonhuman Personhood.  Founded in 1982 by alumni, Charles H. Dyson, the series aims to encourage and make possible the engagement of scholarly legal studies to both the students, faculty and staff of Pace Law School and the public at large. Wise’s presentation on nonhuman personhood and rights did just that.

Wise’s research on what affords humans as opposed to nonhuman animals “noncomparative” rights, such as liberty and dignity, is significant.  He began his presentation by discounting the seemingly largest problem with affording nonhuman animals rights, namely their lack of standing.  Instead, Wise demonstrated through a pyramid diagram how standing is actually the last and least of all obstructions. Rather, the core problem is the question of capacity, which opens (or closes) the gate in affording nonhuman animals rights. Capacity for rights would ultimately establish that any nonhuman animal is a legal person and thus is entitled to legal rights.  Once capacity is achieved the next hurdle involves defining which rights in particular are attributable to nonhuman animals. The third tier questions private rights and last is the pyramid point, encompassing the notion of standing. Continue reading

Is PETA v. SeaWorld a Bad Idea?

Spencer Lo

 There is no question that, in the ordinary sense of the word, a great many non-human animals are slaves, forced to exist in extremely deleterious conditions to fulfill the wishes of their human masters. Most are untroubled by this fact—slavery over animals has been widely accepted in society for a very long time. Last October, in an effort to reverse this norm, PETA made a radical (some say outrageous) move. They filed a lawsuit against SeaWorld on behalf of five orcas, creatures who have been forced to live in highly confined, unnatural environments, to their detriment, all for the purpose of performing cheap tricks. Their decades-long captivity, according to PETA, violates the constitutional prohibition against slavery (aka the Thirteenth Amendment).

While it may be common sense that the orcas are slaves, from a legal standpoint, PETA is asserting a very radical claim. Is it too radical? PETA is essentially contending that the oracas are full legal persons entitled to constitutional rights. For the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), an organization dedicated to changing the legal status of non-human animals from “things” to “persons,” the move is too soon; the lawsuit “is dangerously premature” and “will damage future animal rights law cases” if it is decided on the merits. NhRP has been allowed to appear as an amicus curiae in the case, and is seeking to have it decided on non-constitutional grounds, rather than on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment claim. The question then is why: why is failure on the merits so bad or counterproductive from the viewpoint of animal rights advocacy? Although PETA is unlikely to prevail, how could it hurt to try?   Continue reading

Powerful Final Day at the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights

Elizabeth Bennett

The last day of the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights began with a heartfelt lecture by conference organizer Heron Santana on climate change and animal rights. Professor Santana spoke about the fact that citizens of Brazil are beginning to eat more meat and the country exports an increasing amount of live animals, as they used to do with slaves.

He also discussed the health risks associated with eating meat and our ability to decrease meat production by decreasing consumption.  He explained that there is a wall of prejudice against other species that we must break down in order to abolish animal slavery.  Professor Santana concluded by stressing the importance of speaking out for animals and making changes in our daily lives to work toward an end to these violations against nonhuman animals.    Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading