Timeline of the Nonhuman Rights Project
This is a timeline of the Nonhuman Rights Project, an American animal rights nonprofit organization seeking to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” to “persons,” with fundamental rights.
|Time period||Development summary|
|1979–2007||Prelude era, starting with Steven M. Wise's self education on animal rights. The Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights is founded in 1995.|
|2007<||NhRP era, after it is founded by Steven M. Wise as a project of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights.|
|2013<||The NhRP starts litigating cases on behalf of animals.|
|Year||Month and date||Event type||Details|
|1979||Prelude||American legal scholar Steven M. Wise reads philosopher Peter Singer’s landmark book Animal Liberation. Wise would later claim that the book was enormously influential for him. In his words, “I really felt that I could not really un-ring that bell,” (..) “There was more injustice there to be fought than any I could think of anywhere in the universe.”|
|1995||Prelude||Steven M. Wise creates the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Inc. (CEFR), which would later be renamed Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., with Jane Goodall as a board member."|
|1998||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes article Hardly a Revolution - The Eligibility of Nonhuman Animals for Dignity-Rights in a Liberal Democracy, 22 Vermont Law Review.|
|2000||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals|
|2001||Literature||Book chapter written by Steven M. Wise and titled A Great Shout - Breaking the Barriers to Legal Rights for Great Apes, is included in Great Apes and Humans - The Ethics of Coexistence (Smithsonian Press).|
|2002||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights.|
|2004||Literature||Steven M. Wise writes book chapter Resources on Animals and the Law, in Animals Are the Issue – Library Resources on Animal Issues, by John M. Kistler.|
|2004||Literature||Steven M. Wise writes book chapter Animal Rights, One Step at a Time, in Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum.|
|2005||Literature||Steven M. Wise writes book chapter Though the Heavens May Fall in Animals Are the Issue – Library Resources on Animal Issues by John M. Kistler.|
|2006||Literature||Steven M. Wise writes book chapter Animal law and animal sacrifice: Analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Santaria animal sacrifice in Hialeah, in A Communion Of Subjects – Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics by Paul Waldau and Kimberly Patton.|
|2006||Literature||Steven M. Wise writes book chapter Entitling Nonhuman Animals to Fundamental Legal Rights on the Basis of Practical Autonomy, in Animals, Ethics, and Trade (Earthscan).|
|2007||Creation||NhRP is founded by Steven M. Wise as a project of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights.|
|2007||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes article The entitlement of chimpanzees to the common law writs of habeas corpus and de homine replegiando to challenge their legal thinghood.|
|2008||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes article Rights of Farmed Animals.|
|2011||Literature||Steven M. Wise publishes article Legal Personhood and the Nonhuman Rights Project.|
|2012||The Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights officially changes its name to the Nonhuman Rights Project.|
|2012||July||Documentary||Documentary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus announce that their next project, Unlocking the Cage, would follow the NhRP's efforts to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals.|
|2013||Legal||NhRP commences a strategic litigation campaign demanding that courts recognize the legal personhood of great apes, cetaceans, and elephants.|
|2013||Legal||NhRP files petitions in three trial courts in the state of New York demanding that common law writs of habeas corpus be issued on behalf of captive chimpanzees Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo; and shift the chimps to a sanctuary. The chimpanzee lawsuits are rejected in New York Court. NhRP claims that the four chimpanzees being kept in facilities throughout the state are, in fact, unlawfully detained prisoners.|
|2014||Literature||Constitutional law scholar Sanford Levinson publishes article commenting on the “sophisticated arguments for animal rights” and wondering whether animal rights activists are like slavery abolitionists, and whether society’s views about animals will be “dismissed with contempt by future generations.”|
|2014||April||Steven M. Wise states that it is scientifically proven that chimpanzees, alongside elephants, cetaceans like dolphins and whales, and African grey parrots, are among a class of nonhuman animals that exhibit high cognitive ability. Wise argues that they're self-aware, they experience pain and joy and they suffer terribly from confinement.|
|2014||December||Legal||The New York State Supreme Court, Apellate Division, rules in a case where NhRP, representing a chimpanzee called Tommy, calls for the court to "enlarge the common-law definition of 'person' in order to afford legal rights to an animal".|
|2014||Late year||Expansion||NhRP president Steven M. Wise and Executive Director Natalie Prosin announce in the Global Journal of Animal Law that the Nonhuman Rights Project would be expanding its work into other countries, beginning in Switzerland, Argentina, England, Spain, Portugal, and Australia..|
|2015||Legal||NhRP petitions the Supreme Court of New York State for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, in an attempt to secure their release from the State University of New York to a sanctuary in Florida. In April, NhRP is granted an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behald of the two chimpanzees.|
|2015||March 19||Legal||NhRP re-files its case on behalf of Hercules and Leo in the New York County Supreme Court.|
|2015||December||Review||Animal Charity Evaluators publishes first review of NhRP, rating the organization as a "Standout Charity".|
|2016||Legal||A litigation modeled on the NhRP’s results in the recognition of a chimpanzee, Cecilia, as a legal person with rights in Argentina and her transfer to a sanctuary in Brazil.|
|2016||Documentary||Documentary titled Unlocking the Cage is released. It exposes NhRP’s litigation work. Since its release, Unlocking the Cage would be watched over 1 million times through HBO’s platforms and many more times through the British, French, and German national TV.|
|2017||November||Review||Animal Charity Evaluators updates review of NhRP, rating its status as "Standout Charity: Special Interest".|
|2017||November||Legal||The NhRP files an habeas corpus petition on behalf of elephants Beulah, Minnie, and Karen, with the support of world-renowned elephant experts including Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss. The NhRP asks the court to recognize their common law right to bodily liberty, order the elephants freed from their decades-long captivity, and order their transfer to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary, where they would be able to choose how to live their lives while living in a community of elephants.|
|2018||January 17||Legal||NhRP announces it has filed a motion to reargue with the Connecticut Superior Court, Litchfield County, asking the court to reverse its dismissal of the habeas corpus petition the NhRP filed in November on behalf of elephants Beulah, Minnie, and Karen, held in captivity for decades as part of a traveling circus based in Goshen, Connecticut.|
|2018||February||Study||NhRP publishes the results of a nationally representative survey conducted with Professor Garrett Broad of Fordham University. The survey indicates that nearly half of Americans say they support legal rights for nonhuman animals.|
|2018||March||Animal liberation||NhRP's chimpanzee clients Hercules and Leo are finally free of the New Iberia Research Center, demonstrating the positive impact of the worldwide media attention and public pressure created by NhRP's litigation.|
|2018||May||Outreach||As part of NhRP's international outreach, President Steven M. Wise and NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider visits Hong Kong, Malaysia, and India to discuss the NhRP’s work and connect with others interested in seeking actual legal rights for nonhuman animals in their respective countries.|
|2018||May||Legal||NhRP files a second habeas corpus petition in Connecticut on behalf of NhRP's elephant clients Beulah, Karen, and Minnie to avoid any undue delay in securing their liberty while the appellate process is proceeding on the rejection of NhRP's first habeas corpus petition on their behalf.|
|2018||October||Legal||The Nonhuman Rights Project files a suit against Bronx Zoo in New York City on behalf of elephant Happy, demanding the recognition of her “legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty” as well as her transfer to an elephant sanctuary.|
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- "THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT (NHRP)". animalcharityevaluators.org. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
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- "Upholding Fundamental Values and Principles of Justice". nonhumanrights.org. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
- "The NhRP in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and India". nonhumanrights.org. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
- "Animal rights group claims Bronx elephant is a person". nypost.com. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- "Animal advocates sue Bronx Zoo, seeking release of Happy the elephant". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- "Elephant being 'unlawfully imprisoned,' activist group says". pressherald.com. Retrieved 27 October 2018.