THE ELEPHANT IN SRI LANKA Part 14
Posted on October 8th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Elephant activists in Sri Lanka say keeping elephants in captivity in private premises is a form of animal cruelty. What they have in mind is Buddhist temples and devales. They plan to take legal action if elephants in custody are returned to temples.

They point out that countries like the USA and UK are recognizing elephants as legal persons. Legal Person does not mean becoming an ordinary person. It is a created category which permits a court of law to discuss that category. An item must be recognized as a legal entity before law courts can give orders about it.

This notion of giving objects the status of a legal person is not new. U.S. courts have determined that corporations can be legal persons.New Zealand   has recognized the Wanganui River as a legal person.  The Maori wanted it. Ships have also   been recognized as legal persons. Two animals have been recognized as legal persons. Argentina’s Cecilia the Chimpanzee and Columbia’s Chucho the Bear, were recognized as legal persons, to get them taken out of their cruel environments.

In the USA this emancipation movement is led by an advocacy group called the Nonhuman Rights Project NhRP’. This Project is working to change the legal status of great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales to legal persons, who will have certain rights in court.

The selection of animals is significant. These four   animals are important species of wildlife in the eco tourist trade in Africa and Asia. They are tropical animals, not temperate ones.  They have no place in the USA. The animals important to USA, those in the dairy and meat trade are not included in this list.

The NhRP Project started in 2013 with lawsuits on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York. They selected chimps because of the similarity of chimps to humans. The four chimps were Hercules and Leo, two 8-year-old chimpanzees being studied by a researcher at Stony Brook University, Tommy, owned by a couple in Gloversville, near Albany and Kiki, from Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls. The group wanted to transfer these four chimpanzees to a sanctuary in southern Florida, where they would live on a five-acre island with 25 to 30 other chimpanzees.

The case went all the way to appeal court and lost.  Court decided that humans are persons because they’re humans, and that chimps aren’t persons because they’re not humans .also that chimps were not able to bear responsibilities and carry out social duties. Journalists called this case the NhRP’s first rodeo.

Then NhRP’ turned to elephants. Elephants might stand a better chance than chimps, they thought. Apes are so close to us that it makes some people uncomfortable. Judges may view us in a different way when we’re dealing with an animal that doesn’t look anything like us but has many of the same characteristics, the Project said.

The Project moved to Connecticut as the legal system there was more hospitable and looked around for an elephant to defend there. The Project found three elephants in a small traveling circus, an outfit which lacked the money to oppose them.

Three elephants in Connecticut just got a lawyer though they did not ask for one said one headline. The trio of elephants, Beulah, Karen, and Minnie, never asked for legal representation, but they got one all the same, it said.

Minnie, Beulah and Karen are elephants who for decades have belonged to a family-owned, traveling zoo in Connecticut. The three elephants, ranging in age from 45 to 50, were captured as wild animals when they were young and have been used for decades in traveling circuses, fairs, and even birthday parties. Over the years, they’ve also been hired out for appearances in advertisements, movies and weddings. The indignant owners said the elephants were well looked after and were treated as family.

The Project filed habeas corpus petition on behalf of the elephants, arguing that they are legal persons” with a right to liberty and asking the Connecticut Superior Court to order their release to a sanctuary. The Project wishes to send them to Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary.  It was the first-ever nonhuman rights lawsuit filed on behalf of captive elephants .The Project lost that case too.

Then the Project decided to take on an elephant in a major zoo. They picked the elephant Happy in Bronx Zoo in New York. Happy’s companion had died and Happy was all alone in the zoo. Happy, was the star of a landmark 2006 Sciencestudy describing how elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors, which is considered a measure of human-like awareness. The Project went to court to obtain the release of Happy who would be transferred to a sanctuary in California with more space and the company of other elephants.

The argument presented was that elephants have many of the qualities of humans. To support their case, the NhRP collected affidavits from nearly a dozen prominent elephant experts.

These affidavits cited the elephant’s empathy, self-awareness and long-term memory, as well as the ability to use calls and gestures to discuss, plan and execute a course of action. They engage in innovative problem-solving, as well as cooperative problem-solving, the Project said. They know their past, they know they’re in the present, and they can plan a future.” Elephants are lot like humans, and are entitled to physical liberty just like humans.

The Project did not win this case either. But their activities aroused interest in the whole issue of animals as legal persons. In the United States, animals are regarded as property.  If animals are granted personhood they will have negative rights,” which means the right to not be subjected to certain actions like confinement at zoos and medical experimentation.

If the elephant was made a legal person, that could usher in profound changes in legal status for animals, said analysts in USA.   Animal advocates could then work their way through the animal kingdom, moving from elephants and chimpanzees to other creatures. People might claim personhood for farm animals. We kill millions of animals a day for food in the USA.”  There was also fear that the human-animal distinction will be broken.

 Rather than rights, lawyers suggest better animal-welfare protections.  The appropriate way to deal with concerns about captive animals is through expanded animal welfare laws. Animal welfare has already conferred legal rights on animals.

Regardless of how Happy’s case is decided, the legal landscape for animals is changing said analysts. in USA an Oregon court ruled that animals could legally be considered victims of crimes. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has pushed for animals to be covered by the Freedom of Information Act. Ethicists have suggested property rights for wild animals threatened by development, labor rights for working animals, and the use of citizenship theory as a framework for thinking about animal rights. Domestic animals might be treated as full-blown citizens, wild animals to members of other nations.

In 2014, Nonhuman Rights Project said it was expanding its work into other countries, beginning in Switzerland, Argentina, England, Spain, Portugal, and Australia. It is only a matter of time before the Project    arrives in Sri Lanka.

Befriending elephants in USA will be very different to championing elephants in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans will point out that   there is a long standing elephant culture in Asia. Bones of Asian elephants excavated at Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley indicate that elephants were tamed and used for work. Decorated elephants are depicted on seals. Sri Lanka had its own thriving elephant culture, which included a symbiotic relationship between the population and elephants.

A law suit saying the Sri Lanka   elephant is a legal person will be coming soon to the law courts of Sri Lanka. It will focus on the tusker Bhanu. There will be much trumpeting. (Concluded)

One Response to “THE ELEPHANT IN SRI LANKA Part 14”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The well established method of Cultural Marxism is to support policies that look favorable but destroy in the application. Cultural Marxism was born as an alternative to the violent and bloody revolutions as the only solution for change from a corrupt system ,advocated by Karl Marx in his “Communist Manifesto” published in 1848,

    The alternative was needed for societies that are not corrupt, are stable and culturally prosperous. The only way to take down a stable and prosperous culture was to criticize it till it falls down. It was first applied by George Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci and others towards a stable and prosperous Europe. What was eventually targeted were the Father, Mother and the Family unit. They targeted Religion, Gender, and the very foundations of that prosperity. Among the disasters that come 0t mind were the Weimar Republic of Germany (1920 to 1933) and the 1960s counterculture anti establishment movements in the US .

    Today movements that sound positive with hidden agendas are the Global warming agenda where major powers who wish to address pollution and environmental issues tend to support policies that end up hurting regional faiths, National interests, history and cultural legacies. There are other major issues such as Gender equality, family planning, Lifestyle choices as in the Gay movement Transgenderism etc. What they silently negate is the role of religions which are denied a voice. It is never stated but implied. Only those who are secular or tend to be atheist dominate these issues. Sri Lanka as a nation and a civilization, has to fight back.

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