A US high court has handed down a landmark judgment in a case that debated whether human rights also apply to animals. The New York court has ruled that Happy, an elephant who has resided at the Bronx Zoo since the 1970s, cannot legally be considered a human being and therefore the rights will not be the same for Happy as for a nobody. It was a blow to an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project who filed a lawsuit in hopes of releasing the elephant from the Bronx Zoo. The group’s argument was that Happy is an autonomous, cognitively complex elephant who should enjoy the same rights as a human, according to The Guardian.
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The official ruling, written by Chief Justice Janet DiFiore, said that “although no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion”, the rules and rights that apply to beings humans cannot be extended to the elephant in these circumstances.
Happy was born in Asia and the elephant was brought to New York when he was one year old with Grumpy, another elephant. Zoo authorities expressed relief at the decision as they feared a decision in favor of Happy could lead to similar cases involving other animals at the facility.
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This is the second time Happy’s case has come to court after a lower court previously denied the elephant’s human rights. The court had previously observed that the decision in favor of Happy “would have an enormous destabilizing impact on modern society”.
“Indeed, taken to its logical conclusion, such a determination would call into question the very premises that underlie pet ownership, the use of service animals, and the enlistment of animals in other forms of work,” read the decision according to The Guardian report.
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