The Animal Kingdom includes us

By Ande Jacobson

In early March, The New Yorker published a fascinating report on a legal crusade to confer “personhood” on Happy the elephant to help protect her rights. The article, entitled The Elephant in the Courtroom: A curious legal crusade to redefine personhood is raising profound questions about the interdependence of the animal and human kingdoms, discusses the fierce debate over what constitutes personhood, and why that is important for legal protection. Several cases from around the world are discussed where various non-human species were granted “non-human person” rights as part of various efforts to protect them from abuse. Animals on the endangered species lists gain a few more protections as well, but they are still not considered persons and don’t enjoy the same freedoms as humans. While the legal calisthenics over which animals deserve additional consideration based on human determination of whether they are sentient or not provide an interesting intellectual exercise, there is a basic fact of science that is lost. Rather than being separate from the Animal Kingdom, humankind is part of the Animal Kingdom as any introductory biology class (based on science) makes abundantly clear. There is indeed an interdependence between various animal species, and our arrogance aside, it should not be a legal matter but a biological imperative that supports the expansion of what we call animal rights or perhaps even personhood. Continue reading