Tag Archives: Non-human rights

Dolphins Who Swim Near Malibu, California, Have Been Granted Safe Passage as a Basic Right

Media Release:  Malibu Proclamation Says Dolphins Deserve Rights to Freedom and Life
photo-62 malibu proclamation dolphin captivity
“February 24, 2014 was a historic day in the movement to gain basic rights for dolphins and whales. A proclamation requesting protection for cetaceans and including a bold statement that dolphins should have the right to their own lives was presented to the Malibu City Council and was signed by Mayor Joan House.
The proclamation, initiated by council member Dr. Laura Rosenthal, supports the free and safe passage of all whales and dolphins in the city’s coastal waters and “encourages citizens of the world to do all within their power to protect them and preserve the oceans”.
Says Dr. Rosenthal about her progressive initiative: “The purpose of this proclamation is not only to support the ideas therein, but to get people thinking about the issues in a deeper and more meaningful way and thus change behavior.”
The proclamation included a statement about cetacean rights. “Whereas, whales and dolphins are known to be highly intelligent and emotional creatures… and therefore deserve the right to their own freedom and lives”.
This is the first officially recognized governmental statement within the United States indicating that dolphins, or any nonhuman animal for that matter, should be given the right to it’s own life and freedom.

Dolphins surfing near Malibu, California (photo by Lauren di Scipio).
Dolphins surfing near Malibu, California (photo by Lauren di Scipio).

“We wanted this statement included in the proclamation because it draws attention to the fact that dolphins currently do NOT have the right to their own lives,” says Laura Bridgeman of the International Marine Mammal Project. “I think most people can agree that dolphins deserve this right, but many remain unaware that dolphins are considered legal property. This needs to change.”
The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits killing and capture of dolphins and whales, but has numerous loopholes, allowing, for example, accidental entanglement of dolphins in fishing gear and capture of dolphins for aquariums.
Steven Wise, President of the Nonhuman Rights Project, applauded Rosenthal’s effort. “This Proclamation is the latest laudable addition to a growing worldwide catalogue of governments and their subdivisions that are recognizing the extraordinary cognitive abilities of cetaceans that scientists have carefully documented and demanding their fundamental rights to bodily liberty.”
Dolphins are now considered non-human persons in India. (Photo credit capgd 2010).
Dolphins are now considered non-human persons in India. (Photo credit CAPGD 2010).

The proclamation is among other international efforts to gain basic rights for dolphins. In 2013, India banned dolphin captivity and declared that dolphins should be considered nonhuman persons, and just last month Romanian MP Remus Cernea drafted a law to designate nonhuman personhood status for dolphins in that country.
It is hoped that other city councils will create similar proclamations.”
By Laura Bridgeman, International Marine Mammal Project.

Contact Laura Bridgeman

Non-Human Persons; Elephants, Great Apes, and Cetaceans Have Brilliant Attorneys to Represent Them

“The cases filed today are the first in a series that the Nonhuman Rights Project plans to file throughout the United States on behalf of captive animals who are scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous. Those include great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos), elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales).”

Chimps retired from captive situations live out their lives in sanctuaries. Photo by Jude Gogi Gabe Vick.
Chimps retired from captive situations live out their lives in sanctuaries. Photo by Jude Gogi Gabe Vick.

Dolphins have saved drowning humans throughout history, chimpanzees have lived with people as family members and have learned to use sign language, elephants have complex lives with long-range communication via very low, deep sound. All of them have shown altruism in caring for others, they recognize themselves in mirrors, and demonstrate a wide range of emotions.
And without any guaranteed rights, all have suffered in humanity’s care, intentionally or not.
But the Nonhuman Rights Project Founder, attorney Steven M. Wise (see press release, below), is in the process of changing that, and today filed a lawsuit to establish that animals who are both sentient and autonomous deserve basic rights to protect them from harsh confinement and abuse.
Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods
Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods

His first four cases involve chimps living in miserable and inhumane conditions, but will raise the bar for all sentient animals on how, or even if, they should be kept in captivity. The argument is often raised that the animals are needed for experimentation, but in most cases those goals can be met in other ways.
In terms of what captive animals can teach us about their wild relatives, researchers are discovering that the very nature of keeping them captive changes their social structure so profoundly that we may only be gathering data on how captivity destroys who they are, and what it takes for them to survive in cages.  A group of researchers studied wild chimps, and discovered that orphaned babies are fostered by unrelated adults, even by adult males – while a similar study of captive chimps showed that orphan babies were never adopted. (Altruism in Forest Chimpanzees: The Case of Adoption).

Chimpanzees make tools and use them to acquire foods and for social displays; they have sophisticated hunting strategies requiring cooperation, influence and rank; they are status conscious, manipulative and capable of deception; they can learn to use symbols and understand aspects of human language including some relational syntax, concepts of number and numerical sequence;[28] and they are capable of spontaneous planning for a future state or event.[29] (Wikipedia)

As we open our minds and consider the facts, there is no doubt that animals deserve basic rights from mistreatment. Even people who believe that humanity was somehow granted dominion over all other species will acknowledge that ‘dominion’ is synonymous with ‘governance’, and is not a license for cruelty or thoughtlessness.


Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) files landmark suits in New York Supreme Court – based on scientific evidence – on behalf of all four captive chimpanzees in that state
Suits are first in a series of cases planned throughout the US on behalf of captive animals scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous
Dec. 2, 2013 – New York, NY – The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) announced today that it has filed the first-ever lawsuits on behalf of captive chimpanzees demanding that the courts grant them the right to bodily liberty via a writ of habeas corpus. The suits, filed in New York Supreme Court, are based on scientific evidence proving that chimpanzees are self-aware and autonomous, and therefore entitled to be recognized as “legal persons” with certain fundamental legal rights.
The four captive chimpanzee plaintiffs*, all located in the state of New York, are:

  • Tommy – a 26-year-old chimpanzee living in a used trailer lot in Gloversville, NY, isolated in a cage in a dark shed on the owner’s property.
  • Hercules and Leo – two young male chimpanzees owned by New Iberia Research Center, used in a locomotion research experiment in the Anatomy Department at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY.
  • Kiko – a 26-year-old chimpanzee living in Niagara Falls, NY, on private property where he is caged and was previously used in the entertainment industry.

The lawsuits ask the judge to grant the chimpanzees the right to bodily liberty and to order that they be moved to a sanctuary that’s part of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), where they can live out their days with others of their kind in an environment as close to the wild as is possible in North America.
“No one has ever demanded a legal right for a nonhuman animal, until now,” said Steven M. Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project. “When we go to court on behalf of the first chimpanzee plaintiffs, we’ll be asking judges to recognize, for the first time, that these cognitively complex, autonomous beings have the basic legal right to not be imprisoned.”
Legal claims made by the Nonhuman Rights Project are rooted in genetic, cognitive, physiological, evolutionary and taxonomic evidence that the plaintiffs are self-aware and autonomous. The species has been studied long and extensively by some of the world’s most well-respected scientists. The organization is seeking rights that are appropriate for the plaintiffs based on existing scientific evidence.
“Not long ago, people generally agreed that human slaves could not be legal persons, but were simply the property of their owners,” attorney Wise continued. “We will assert, based on clear scientific evidence, that it’s time to take the next step and recognize that these nonhuman animals cannot continue to be exploited as the property of their human ‘owners.’
“Abraham Lincoln put it best when he said that ‘in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.’”
The cases filed today are the first in a series that the Nonhuman Rights Project plans to file throughout the United States on behalf of captive animals who are scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous. Those include great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos), elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales).
 About the Nonhuman Rights Project
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is the first and only legal organization demanding that, based on scientific evidence, courts recognize the entitlement of certain nonhuman animals to such basic rights as bodily liberty and bodily integrity. Comprised of attorneys, legal experts and scientists, the Nonhuman Rights Project is focused on raising awareness and educating the public about rights for nonhuman animals. The organization uses the common law, not legislation, to gain legal rights for great apes, elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales).
Nonhuman Rights Project Founder, attorney Steven M. Wise, began his mission to gain rights for nonhuman animals in 1985. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise has taught “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Harvard Law School and several other law schools, and is currently teaching at Lewis and Clark Law School, Vermont Law School and St. Thomas Law School. He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights;Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River.
The Nonhuman Rights Project has captured the interest of dozens of well-respected lawyers, scientists, mathematicians, biologists, predictive analytics professionals, professors, and researchers who donate their time and energy to this project.
For more information on the Nonhuman Rights Project, please visit www.nonhumanrightsproject.org.
* Note: The first three plaintiff chimpanzees selected by the Nonhuman Rights Project all died in captivity before the organization was able to file its first lawsuits.