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Letter #1 From the Front Lines of the Struggle for Nonhuman Rights: The First 50 Months

STEVEN M. WISE:As much of the work of the Nonhuman Rights Project is litigation, journalists often report our story in a binary way. We “lost.” We “won.” But merely reporting whether we win or lose any particular case, or five, or ten, fails to capture the enormity, complexity, and range of the struggle that the NhRP has begun. Its object is to attain legal personhood and those fundamental legal rights for nonhuman animals to which generally accepted principles of justice entitle them. The decisions of individual courts in the United States and throughout the world along the way merely “can help or hurt, but their power to do so is dwarfed by impersonal forces” that are strong and growing…

An initial task of the NhRP is to encourage judges, for the first time, then persistently, to begin to think about the injustice of the legal thinghood of all nonhuman animals, for to think about their thinghood, their rightlessness, is to condemn it as well. For those who have never thought it possible, the required psychological shift must begin with being able to imagine that an entity that has long been considered a legal “thing” can possibly be seen as a legal “person”…

The work of the NhRP today then is to persist in catalyzing judicial imaginations by bringing scientific discovery to their attention, and in giving the courts opportunities to vindicate their own proud ideals of justice by recognizing that at least some nonhuman animals — certainly those the NhRP’s experts can prove are autonomous — should be legal persons entitled to such basic fundamental rights as bodily liberty and bodily integrity.’ SOURCE…


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