|Tommy in his cell. Photo courtesy of Nonhuman Rights Project.|
His name is Tommy, he is 28 years old, and after having been forced to spend most of his life performing in a circus, he now lives in solitary confinement in a small, dark, cement cage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at a used-trailer lot in Upstate New York. His only company is a small television. What crime did Tommy commit to endure such misery and isolation? He was born a chimpanzee.
History shows us that justice is not blind and courts, like any other human-centric establishment, continue to operate from an anthropocentric prejudice. After all, if intelligence were truly a prerequisite for rights, then children and the mentally disabled would have none.
The animal food industries prefer that the public not be privy to their sanctioned abuse for fear that it will impact them financially. And yet, when critics argue that Ag-Gag laws are a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, the courts have often—conveniently—disagreed.
. . . the law generally prohibits imposing suffering on animals only when we get an economic benefit from doing so. . . . Large animals who are conscious and hanging upside down and thrashing as they are slaughtered will cause injuries to slaughterhouse workers and will incur expensive carcass damage. . . . Animal welfare laws that require ‘humane’ treatment are really not about animals; they’re about humans and making humans feel better about using animals.
On the bright side, two fairly recent rulings by the Oregon Supreme Court acknowledged that nonhuman animals have moral worth and those who have been abused are victims who deserve consideration in judgments. While this is a positive step in the right direction, nonhuman animals still have zero legal rights. Even the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are entitled to certain legal rights which nonhuman animals are denied. So, while SCOTUS and politicians proclaim "corporations are people," the property status of nonhuman animals remains unchanged and those like Tommy have no more rights than a toaster.
Most human suffering, loss, deprivation, and early death come from injustice toward nonhuman animals. Establishing rights for all animals is vital to all of us and must be recognized above human opportunism and self-interest! Whether we allow our collective egos to finally concede this fact or whether we continue to deny other animals like Tommy their innate right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is clearly up to us but, sooner or later, justice will get her due—and so will we—even if Tommy does not.
UPDATE: NhRP recently reported that Tommy was moved to a roadside zoo in Michigan some months ago. To help Tommy and others, please visit the Nonhuman Rights Project.