New York Daily News
The Nonhuman Rights Project is crowing because the New York Court of Appeals has chosen to hear the case of Happy, the 47-year-old elephant living in the Bronx Zoo. The stubborn-as-a-mule nonprofit isn’t horsing around. They want the state’s highest legal panel to buck lower courts and declare the pachyderm a “cognitively complex nonhuman animal” entitled to live out the rest of her years in a sanctuary rather than her home for the last 43 years.
Though appeals courts don’t admit new evidence, we’d sure like some lawyer to put Happy under oath on the stand, with an elephant-to-English translator by her side, and, without badgering the witness, ask whether she really supports her advocates’ position or would prefer to stay where she’s called home practically her whole life, alongside caretakers she knows.
While the Nonhuman Rights Project parrots the claim that Happy is the first elephant to pass a mirror self-recognition test, so do some pigeons, and so does a tiny tropical fish. How many dentist’s office aquariums, we wonder, is the cleaner wrasse in, and are they next to be dogged by controversy? On the flip side, human babies fail that very test until they’re 18 months or so; does that mean they ought to be less protected by the law? Don’t weasel out of tough questions.
We don’t celebrate the fact that Happy was taken from the wild years ago. We hate seeing majestic and beautiful and complex elephants hounded and hunted by NRA dopes or Trumps (but we repeat ourselves) or treated badly in circuses.
But we do know that the well-trained and well-meaning professionals at the Bronx Zoo care for this creature the best they can. And if New York State’s judiciary buys what the advocates are hawking and agrees that one nonhuman animal is entitled to certain core freedoms, more will have to follow. Pigs, after all, have intelligence comparable to elephants, and they’re destined for millions of dinner plates. Why should an elephant hog the legal limelight?