Update: habeas corpus claim for elephants “wholly frivolous on its face”

Updating a November post: a judge has rejected a habeas corpus petition filed by Steven Wise’s Nonhuman Rights Project against a small Connecticut zoo on behalf of three elephants. Ted Folkman, Letters Blogatory:

The judge held that under Connecticut law, at least, it’s necessary for the next friend to have at least some relationship with the real party in interest. Here there was no relationship between the NhRP and the elephants. Indeed, as the judge observed, the people with the real relationship with the elephants were the zookeepers—the people who were being sued! …I don’t think standing is the key issue here. But the judge’s discussion does raise the question of why one would think that Steven Wise has any more right to represent the interests of these elephants than do the people who know the elephants best. This illustrates one of the real problems with Wise’s crusade: it’s an attempt to use the courts for essentially legislative purposes, and the “client” is a mere fiction or pawn. …

Why does the the NhRP focus on trying to get a court to declare that highly intelligent animals are persons with rights, instead of trying to pass improved animal cruelty laws or even trying to pass more radical statutes, e.g., a law making it illegal to own or keep elephants, say? A cynical view is that if you pass general criminal laws, then when someone violates the law, the government takes the initiative to prosecute the offenders. But if the way we protect animals going forward is through litigation with the animals as plaintiffs, then there will be a regular role for the NhRP in conducting litigation and in shaping the outcomes of particular cases. … [They] will always need the ‘help’ of the lawyers.


  • When the King of Siam wanted to punish a subject who had incurred his displeasure, he gave him the great honor of being responsible for the maintenance of one of the sacred White Elephants. This was very expensive.

    Surely the courts will judge that Mr. Wise will be responsible for all the expenses of his three best friends.


  • On question. What’s a zoon?