The Coming Legal Personhood of Animals

In the very near future non-humans will be recognized as persons.


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Legal personhood has never been exclusive to human beings. In Pakistan a court has recognized a mosque as a person. In India the holy books of the Sikhs are deemed persons. The Whanganui River in New Zealand has legal personhood status. And as Citizens United recently reminded us, corporations are recognized as persons in the United States. So is it really such a stretch to grant this status to nonhuman animals who are autonomous and have a concept both of self and the future? Recently a court in Argentina did just that, recognizing Sandra, a 28-year-old orangutan, as a legal being, not property. We at VegNews honored Esther the Wonder Pig with our 2014 ”Person of the Year” award, as she fits all of the qualifications of a person. Meanwhile, the Nonhuman Rights Project and president Steven Wise are making significant headway in this important legal and social transformation, bringing actions in several state courts. “If any entity, whether she’s a chimpanzee or a human being is autonomous, that should be enough to make her a legal person,” says Wise. Wise words.

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