Gradually, nervously, courts are granting rights to animals

Chimpanzees and elephants first

Happy was one of seven Asian elephant calves captured, probably from the same herd, in Thailand in the early 1970s. Named after Disney’s seven dwarves, they were shipped to America and sold to circuses and zoos. Happy and Grumpy ended up in the Bronx zoo, where they lived in an enclosure for 25 years. In 2002 they were transferred to a larger enclosure with a second pair of pachyderms, Patty and Maxine. Their new environment was a little closer to the wild one, in which elephants form large families. But Patty and Maxine charged at Grumpy, injuring her. Unable to walk and with suppurating wounds, Grumpy was euthanised.

Happy was then paired with a younger female elephant, Sammy. She died of kidney failure in 2006. But meanwhile Happy had become a scientific celebrity. In 2005 she became the first elephant to pass the “mirror self-recognition test”, an indicator of self-consciousness. Scientists painted a white cross over her left eye, and led her to a large mirror. Happy repeatedly touched the marking with her trunk, showing that she recognised herself. Most animals (and human infants) cannot do this.

Animals are Sentient! Time to End Foie Gras!

France has declared that animals are sentient and ‘not furniture!’

The French Parliament has overturned 200 years of law to elevate animals to the status of sentient beings. Although it was already obvious to most of us, this recognition in law is an important milestone for animals. As the law begins to acknowledge the sentience of animals, recognition will grow that animals have needs and desires of their own. And one day they will gain the rights that they have so long been denied.

Thanks to the many submissions put in by you and others, New Zealand is set to acknowledge sentience in its own animal welfare legislation later this year. Find out more about animals and NZ law:

SHARE if you think animals are so much more than a piece of furniture!


Does this mean the French, who invented and produce foie gras, will end the bizarre practice of shoving a pipe down the throats of geese and force feeding them until their livers swell or their stomachs burst, whichever comes first?

1. (Environmental Science) a belief of humans that all other species of animals are inferior and may therefore be used for human benefit without regard to the suffering inflicted

“Fish Are Sentient and Must Be Included in Our Moral Circle”

Fish are Sentient and Emotional Beings and Clearly Feel Pain

By Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. on June, 19, 2014 in Animal Emotions

Fish deserve better treatment based on a review of scientific data on their cognitive and emotional lives. According to the author, “the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.” Fish must be included in our moral circle. Read More

Honor Thy Father and Mother, Except When They Misbehave‏

Those of us who grew up watching “All in the Family” knew that the patriarch, Archie Bunker, wasn’t always right (to say the least). Yet, often the first reaction I hear from people when they learn that Exposing the Big Game is an anti-hunting book is an indignant, “But my father was a hunter!”

Well, so? Look at all the other outdated activities or attitudes we’ve turned our backs on—slavery, racism, sexism all went out of fashion without anyone arguing, “But my father was a racist, sexist, slave owner!”

What’s so sacred about hunting that makes it any harder to kiss goodbye than any of our parent’s other wrong-headed behaviors? Maybe it’s that nearly everyone you meet is as blind to their anthropocentric prejudice of speciesism as Archie Bunker was to his isms. Most people seem unwilling or unable to share their compassion with the non-human animals of this world.

Our parents deserve to be honored for teaching us the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Kids are generally told that this directive applies to everyone, from their parents and teachers to their siblings and friends—not just to members of their in-group. And a lot of parents wouldn’t hesitate to invoke the golden rule to stop a child hurting the family pet.

Yet for many people, the bias of speciesism is so entrenched that they can’t seem to recognize a wild animal as a deserving other. But biases and isms are not written in stone. If humanity keeps evolving along a compassion continuum, we will inevitably apply the same rules of consideration to all creatures who have the ability to think and feel. Perhaps it’s time to update and clarify the golden rule to read: “Do unto other sentient beings as they would have you do unto them.”

The golden rule is an age-old edict rooted in the qualities of empathy and compassion. The former asks that we put ourselves in someone else’s “shoes” while the latter compels us to modify any actions that would harm or aggravate them. Naturally if we live by a golden rule that includes all of the animal kingdom, we would never keep anyone captive, trap, poison or snare them or use them as living targets in a bloody, imbalanced game.

Text and Wildlife Photos Copyright Jim Robertson