I just stumbled through posts on Instagram, when I came across a picture of the documentary Unlocking the Cage. Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After thirty years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a thing with no rights to a person with legal protections. Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins, and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse. Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.
In Dec. 2013, Wise and his legal team, using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), filed three lawsuits demanding limited personhood rights for four captive chimpanzees in New York State. Supported by affidavits from scientists and primatologists, the NhRP urged the courts to release the animals to Save the Chimps, a Florida sanctuary.
The first plaintiff was Tommy, a 26-year-old chimp who began life in Hollywood movies, and was found living alone in a garage on a used trailer lot. The lower court judge was sufficiently impressed with the merits of the case and directed the lawsuit up to the Appellate Court in Albany, where five judges heard Wise’s argument in Oct. 2014. It was the first time a U.S. court openly debated whether a nonhuman animal should be considered a legal person. Two months later, the Appellate Division in Rochester considered a second case involving Kiko, an abused showbiz chimp living in a Niagara Falls storefront. The initial decisions on these cases were wildly divergent, and showcase the legal disarray wrought by Wise’s efforts. But his final case, on behalf of Hercules and Leo, chimps used for research at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is the one that truly challenged the court. Arguing against New York’s assistant attorney general, Wise made an impassioned plea that inspired state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe to openly question, “Why can’t a chimpanzee be deemed a ‘person’ for the sole purposes Mr. Wise says: of permitting the habeas writ to the very limited extent sought? Why isn’t that an appropriate use of this great writ?” This historic declaration – along with the legal ground that Jaffe broke when first granting the writ – became a milestone in animal rights.
When I first saw articles about this case in the news it restored my faith in humanity for a short period. There are still people on this world, fighting for equal rights for all of us. And they definitely deserve that right. Animals can’t understand why we imprison them. We torture them and spit on their personal rights. I totally support direct actions but sometimes we also need to fight at court to make sure, non-human animals are save.
There was a time, when black people needed to fight for their rights on the streets and in court. There was a time when women didn’t have the same rights as men have. But that has now been changed with great justice.
I still can’t believe I will get punished by law, just for insulting another person with words. But then on the other hand, non-human animals are only things, so you can easily kill them without being afraid of a sentence. I am getting angry when then additionally christianity claims, non-human animals were only created by the so-called God, for getting eaten by us. I mean how dumb is that, that people believe in that bullshit. Therefore it is definitely a good step in the right direction that people keep up the fight and raise their voice for the voiceless animals.
Right now the documentary is streaming on HBO. Unfortunately I am not able to watch the complete documentary, you can push me in the right direction, where I can watch it, please feel free to drop me a message. In the meantime, check out the Trailer, published on Vimeo.
Links you should check out: