By Larry Keane
Animal rights activists are at it again and now they’ve enlisted the support of New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. The Nonhuman Rights Project Inc.’s latest target is the Bronx Zoo. The offending act is that zookeepers there deign to care for two grown elephants, Happy and Patty, in captivity.
Apparently, this a violation of their “legal personhood.”
They’ve gone as far as to organize zoo protests and petitioned the courts to sue the Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Specifically, they want to sue on behalf of “Happy” for “unlawful imprisonment.” They say the zoo is illegally denying Happy the companionship she needs from two other female elephants in the zoo, Patty and Maxine.
Happy is a 47-year-old female Asian elephant who has lived alone for 13 years. It wasn’t always this way. She was captured as an infant with several other elephants and was paired with another elephant, Grumpy, until that elephant was killed by Patty and Maxine, the same elephants with whom Nonhuman Rights Project contends Happy should be housed. Happy was later paired with another elephant named Sammy, who had to be euthanized in 2006. Maxine, one of the elephants who attacked Grumpy, was euthanized last year due to advanced cancer. Zookeepers attempted to pair Happy with Patty, but after a week, it was clear the two wouldn’t bond well and the attempt was called off.
A zoo spokesperson called the lawsuit “ludicrous.”
The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division last year thought so too. Nonhuman Rights Project’s case was thrown out.
The thing is, they’ve tried this before with chimpanzees. In 2018, the same court denied the same group the same argument for a chimpanzee named Kiko. They lost spectacularly then, but they could have predicted that outcome too. That’s because they tried it before in 2015 at the State Supreme Court for two chimpanzees named Hercules and Leo. They lost that attempt to force Stony Brook University on Long Island to move the chimps to a Florida sanctuary.
The significance of these lawsuits to the firearms industry and hunters shouldn’t be underestimated, wrote James Delingpole for The Spectator. The driver of these cases is Stephen Wise, an activist and lawyer. Delingpole noted that Wise was dismissed as a nut in his early days. Now, he teaches at Harvard University. That means if Wise wins today or through his proteges in the future, “No more foie gras. No more crispy duck.”
It also means no more hunting.
Threats to Hunting
If the courts agree to Wise’s claims that Happy the elephant, or Kiko the chimpanzee are guaranteed the right to legal personhood, it’s not a far stretch to see the courts hearing cases of denial of legal personhood through harvesting of wild game. In other words – murder.
This is already happening. Look to New Jersey, where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to end the state’s black bear hunts. He tried, but was limited by law to prohibiting hunts on state-owned land, a prohibition he enacted in 2018. It was done despite the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife noting the bear population could double by 2022 without hunting.
New Jersey bear hunters face more than legal obstacles. They’re getting death threats from activists who make unfounded emotional pleas instead of sound scientific decisions. It’s not just bear hunters either. Activists protested the First Annual Family Squirrel Classic earlier this year, an event to introduce new hunters to a centuries-old tradition of small game hunting. It’s the type of hunt many youths start on to work up to hunting bigger game.
NSSF Protecting Hunting
That’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation® isn’t dismissing these instances as fanatical examples of a fringe element. NSSF was leading the effort in North Carolina in 2018 to add the Tar Heel State to the list of 22 other states where hunting is a constitutionally-protected right. Eighty percent of the state’s lawmakers voted to add it as a ballot question. Voters spoke in 2018 and more than 2 million voters agreed to add it to the state’s constitution.
These efforts also deny the role the hunter-conservationist plays in wildlife conservation. Specifically, it ignores the role the firearms industry has performed, generating more than $38 billion in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes by firearms and ammunition manufacturers that goes directly to wildlife conservation. North American wildlife is at the healthiest levels ever, because of the efforts of hunter-conservationists.
It’s time to keep the activists from turning out courts into a zoo and our wildlife into a cartoon.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.