US Court Recognizes Animals as Legal Persons for the First Time


This month, a United States court docket acknowledged animals as authorized individuals for the first time. The motion occurred in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio the place animal-rights group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed an utility to depose two Ohio-based consultants on nonsurgical sterilization, medical doctors Elizabeth Berkeley and Richard Berlinski. The consultants can be talking on behalf of Plaintiffs, who’re recognized as the “community of hippopotamuses living in the Magdalena River.” Part of an ongoing Colombian lawsuit the place the Plaintiff hippos have standing as authorized individuals, the US district court docket granted the utility pursuant to twenty-eight U.S.C. § 1782 to conduct discovery for use in overseas proceedings—and in doing so acknowledged the hippos as authorized individuals with respect to that statute.

Under the statute, the US permits any “interested person” in a overseas litigation to request permission from a federal court docket to take depositions in the US in assist of their overseas case. Since Colombia acknowledges the hippos as authorized events to the case, ALDF reasoned that they’re collectively “interested persons” below this statute. 

“Animals have the right to be free from cruelty and exploitation, and the failure of US courts to recognize their rights impedes the ability to enforce existing legislative protections,” ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells stated in an announcement. “The court’s order authorizing the hippos to exercise their legal right to obtain information in the United States is a critical milestone in the broader animal status fight to recognize that animals have enforceable rights.” 

Pablo Escobar’s hippos

The plight of the Plaintiffs traces again to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who bought 4 hippos for his personal zoo in the Nineteen Eighties. After Escobar’s demise in 1993, the Colombian authorities left the hippos on his property, citing that it was unable to move them to an appropriate atmosphere. Since then, the hippos have escaped the property and settled alongside the Magdalena river, the place some ecologists say they’re reproducing at an unsustainable fee. 

In July 2020,  lawyer Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed the lawsuit in Colombia to avoid wasting the authorities from slaughtering the roughly 100 hippos who now dwell alongside the Magdalena river. On October 15, 2021, the native environmental company started giving the hippos contraceptive GonaCon—the security and efficacy of which is unknown. It can be unknown what number of hippos the authorities nonetheless intends to kill. Instead, the lawsuit seeks an order to supply the hippos with PZP (porcine zona pellucida), a traditionally profitable contraceptive in hippos really useful by an International Advisory Committee assembled by Animal Balance, a world group that focuses on sterilization of animals.

Now that the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has granted the utility for discovery to go ahead, the testimony of medical doctors Berkeley and Berlinski—who’re wildlife consultants for Animal Balance—might be used to bolster assist for the use of PZP as a substitute of slaughtering Magdelena river hippos. 


Animals as authorized individuals outdoors of the US

Legal personhood will not be restricted to people in lots of locations, together with in the US the place firms are acknowledged as authorized individuals in court docket and in South American international locations the place the Amazon river additionally has authorized rights. While animals, usually categorised as property, are solely starting to get the identical authorized recognition in the US, along with Colombia, different international locations acknowledge animals as holding authorized personhood.

One instance is in India the place the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted animals authorized particular person or entity standing in 2019, giving animals in the state of Haryana “corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person.” Justice Rajiv Sharma, who presided over an identical ruling in 2018 in Uttarakhand High Court defined that his resolution was based mostly on the discrepancy between who and what has been granted authorized personhood in the previous. 

“T​​he corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/legal person,” Justice Sharma stated in his ruling. “The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior without pain, fear, and distress. They are entitled to justice. The animals cannot be treated as objects or property.” 

For extra about animal authorized victories, learn:
Federal Judges Reject Meat Industry’s Attempt to Overturn Animal Welfare Law
United States Bans Slaughter of Cats and Dogs for Food
Maine Just Became the sixth State to Ban Cosmetics Tested on Animals 

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