Elephants Denied Freedom From Commerfood Zoo, Connecticut, Despite Petition From Charity

Andrea A.

Judge James Bentivegna, from Torrington, Connecticut, denied a petition put forward by the Nonhuman Rights Project, a charity which aims to grant animals legal personhood, demanding the release of 3 elephants from the Commerford zoo. The judge struck down the petition at the end of December.The elephants, Beulah, Karen and Minnie,were taken away from their family in the 60's and 70's, before being sent to America, where they have been exploited ever since.

Source: Animal Defenders International

Basing their case on the idea that elephants are particularly intelligent animals, capable of communicating, understanding consequences, passing down knowledge and possessing self awareness, Nonhuman Rights Project declared:

Their complex cognitive abilities [are] sufficient for common law personhood and the common law right to bodily liberty, as a matter of common law liberty, equality, or both under Connecticut common law.

Unfortunately, Bentivegna rejected this request, stating that the court does not know enough on the subject, adding that the petition was a waste of time and resources from a legal point of view.He added that the group did not have a solid relationship with the elephants before launching their petition, and that there was no precedent for giving elephants legal personhood.

Source: Animal Defenders International

Bentivegna declared that the parents, relatives, or legal guardians of the elephants were the only ones who could make an appeal like this on their behalf.As the group is none of these things, they have no legal grounds to lodge a complaint. He also alleged that the petition was not made in the elephants' interest, but for political reasons instead:

Because the petitioner has failed to allege that it possesses any relationship with the elephants, the petitioner lacks standing. 

In 2015, a New York courthouse recognised two chimpanzees has having legal personhood. The Nonhuman Rights Project intends to appeal Bentivegna's decision. The zoo has denied any abuse and angrily denounced the lawsuit as a ploy for attention and money.

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