Photo: Gigi Glendinning

Photo: Gigi Glendinning

S2 E7: Kevin Schneider: Elephants, Great Apes, and Cetaceans and the Fight to Call them Persons

Elephants, great apes, dolphins, and whales are incredibly complex, social, and intelligent creatures, but our legal system considers them to be “things,” meaning they have no more rights then a can of beans does. For too many years these animals have been taken from the wild, held captive, lived for decades in confinement, tested on, tortured, abused, isolated, or neglected. 

Kevin Schneider is Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, an organization that is fighting to secure actual legal rights for these animals. Their lawsuits demand recognition of the legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty of great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales that are being held in captivity across the United States. Not out of concern for their welfare, but with respect to their individual rights. 

Since 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed lawsuits on behalf of four captive chimpanzees and four captive elephants, including Happy, the saddest looking elephant in the state of New York. Happy has spent the past 13 years living in isolation at the Bronx Zoo. The Nonhuman Rights Project is fighting for her freedom, so that she can be released to an elephant sanctuary where she’ll have room to room and other elephants to spend her days with.

In todays conversation Kevin shares why the Nonhuman Rights Project will not stop until these animals are considered persons in the eyes of the law and why it matters, not only for the animals, but for us humans too. 

Kevin Schneider is Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, an organization fighting to secure actual legal rights for these animals through a state by state, country by country, long term litigation campaign. What that means is that their lawsuits demand recognition of the legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty of these animals – the great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales - that are being held in captivity across the United States. With the support of scientists, they argue that the common law courts must free these self-aware autonomous beings to appropriate sanctuaries, not out of concern for their welfare, but with respect to their individual rights.

Since 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed lawsuits on behalf of four captive chimpanzees and four captive elephants, including Happy, the saddest looking elephant in the state of New York. Happy has spent the past 13 years living in isolation at the Bronx Zoo Lately, Happy’s case has been receiving all sorts of attention from the public, the press, and politicians alike, with a recent statement by New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, urging the Bronx Zoo to release Happy and Patty (the other isolated elephant at the zoo) to a sanctuary.

The Nonhuman Right’s Project has just been assigned a judge in the Bronx to hear Happy’s case.

Kevin is a man who clearly loves his work and is incredibly passionate about the fight for rights for these magnificent beings. He shares why the Nonhuman Rights Project will not stop until these animals are considered persons in the eyes of the law and why it matters, not only for the animals that they are fighting for, but for us humans too.

Nonhumanrights.org

Article on Happy the elephant from Dr. Joyce Poole: The Daily News “Elephants don’t belong in zoos: Happy needs to move from the Bronx” 

Documentary: Unlocking the Cage:

Steven Wise’s books: