Opinion: Happy the Unhappy Elephant?

Daniella Cressman

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For quite some time, the United States has treated animals in an immensely controversial and often inhumane manner.

Now, certain animal rights activists are claiming that an Asian elephant by the name of Happy is illegally confined in a New York Zoo.

"The advocates at the Nonhuman Rights Project say yes: Happy is an autonomous, cognitively complex elephant worthy of the right reserved in law for “a person.” The Bronx Zoo, where Happy resides, says no: Through an attorney, the zoo argues Happy is neither illegally imprisoned nor a person, but a well-cared-for elephant 'respected as the magnificent creature she is.'" —Michael Hill

If animals are considered people under United States law, this raises all sorts of questions, especially among carnivores. In a word, this whole ordeal is controversial.

On one hand, the animal rights activists fear that Happy is deeply depressed and quite lonely because her companion Grumpy was fatally injured in a confrontation in 2002, but she still lives in an enclosure next to the zoo's other elephant Patty. They believe she craves more company, and they are quite concerned that she is not getting enough socialization.

The Bronx Zoo argued that Happy is a cherished elephant and a magnificent creature in their eyes. Happy has been with them for decades.

However, they made the point that she is not a person and should not be treated as one under the law. They believed that it was extreme to criticize them for illegal confinement when that just wasn't the case.

If animals are people under the law, that begs the question of the ethics regarding the seemingly endless slaughter of cows, the corrupt elements of fish farming, and even the complications pet ownership. It would be extremely odd to suddenly accuse people of illegally confining their dogs.

I do think all animals ought to be treated humanely, but I can't agree that they are people under United States law, because that would make many of our current practices not only unethical but unlawful.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM
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