Nonhuman Rights Project
The Nonhuman Rights Project announced several years ago that it would file the first lawsuits to claim
common law personhood and fundamental legal rights for a nonhuman animal in
Twenty-five years ago, Professor David Favre and I began to grapple with the problem of obtaining real legal rights for nonhuman animals. There were no casebooks, few trade books or articles, almost no law school or undergraduate classes that concerned animal law or welfare, or cases. Every law school I begged to allow me to teach a class on animal law refused. There was nothing written on animal rights law. We theorized from scratch.
In 1995, I published an article in Lewis and Clark Law School’s inaugural issue of “Animal Law.” The following year, I created the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Inc. (CEFR), which is now the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., with Jane Goodall as a board member.
In the last year of the 20th Century, my book Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals appeared. During an interview about it, I was asked whether the time was ripe to file lawsuits that actually claimed legal rights for a nonhuman animal. I said, “It is not.” In response, the interviewer asked, “If not now, when?” “In about ten years,” I said.
The Nonhuman Rights Project attracted lawyers, law students, and law professors who wrestled together with dozens of legal questions few had ever contemplated, and struggled to identify which of the 51 legal jurisdictions within the United States might be the best in which to file our initial lawsuits. They drafted law review articles intended to assist judges and other law-makers in evaluating the merits of our claims – articles that are being readied today for publication.
Natural scientists and graduate science students gathered and archived the latest research in nonhuman animal cognition. Sociologists and mathematicians worked to puzzle out what judges might think about our legal claims, while social media experts constructed our website and Facebook page.
Hundreds of volunteers have now spent more than 30,000 hours preparing.
On March 24, the Nonhuman Rights Project will choose the jurisdictions in which we will file those first lawsuits. By May 1, we will have selected the initial nonhuman animal plaintiffs, begun drafting our Complaints and supporting documents, and preparing for trials and appeals. During the last quarter of 2013 we will enter the courthouse.
2013 is here, and we are ready!
Cartoonist Jeff Berry sent this delightful creation to Nonhuman Rights Project in early January: