The Nonhuman Rights Project, a nonprofit organization advocating for legal rights for animals, is planning on filing two lawsuits on behalf of captive animals in the United States by the end of next year, according to Wired Science. Although the group has not yet decided which species will be targeted, highly intelligent social animals such as bonobos, chimpanzees, elephants, and dolphins are strong contenders.
The head of the organization, animal law scholar and attorney Steven Wise, has made it his mission to have the US courts recognize certain species as persons instead of “things,” and as such, they would have rights to basic privileges such as freedom from imprisonment and captive breeding.
Although other groups have argued the case for granting personhood to animals in courts, and failed, they have focused on pushing legislation through Congress. The Nonhuman Rights Project, on the other hand, will file their lawsuits in a state court and appeal to common law rights of freedom from unlawful detention. Volunteers for the organization are currently reviewing the records of judges across the 50 states looking for those who might be open-minded and amenable to their cause.
Judges “have understood, for centuries, that it’s their job to keep common law current with changing experience, changing senses of morality, and changing scientific discoveries,” Wise told Wired. “We’ll listen carefully to what judges are saying. We will continue to push and push and push.”