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New York Farm Bureau Files Amicus Brief in Support of Bronx Zoo in Elephant Human Right Case


New York Farm Bureau and its agricultural partners have filed an amicus curia brief in support of the Bronx Zoo and its efforts to push back against animal rights activists who are suing to free the elephant named Happy and grant the animal a human right. If successful, this precedent setting ruling would have dire consequences for animal agriculture in the state and our food system.

The New York State Court of Appeals is hearing arguments in the case today on whether the elephant should be afforded habeas corpus relief.  Habeas corpus relief is a right given to a person who is seeking relief from being illegally imprisoned or restrained in their liberty.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. (NRP) argues that the elephant possesses mirror self-recognition and therefore identifies with key traits of self-awareness. It concludes that because the elephant has self-awareness, the animal has self-autonomy which cannot be exercised while being kept in a zoo.  NRP would like the elephant to be moved to an animal sanctuary—another confined area of space. 

New York Farm Bureau submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the Respondents (Breheny on behalf of the Bronx Zoo) arguing habeas corpus relief is not proper as it is well established case law that an animal is not a person nor is the elephant being illegally imprisoned.  

In the brief, we argue that not only would this devastate animal agriculture, but it would also raise constitutional issues for humans surrounding unlawful takings, seizures, and impairments of contracts. If this precedent were to be set, it has the potential to create a litany of issues as it relates to animal agriculture. 

The agricultural industry should not be exposed to the wave of habeas petitions that NRP invites and that would swamp New York courts. Worse, if any of those habeas petitions succeed in securing the release or transfer of livestock, the livelihoods of agriculturalists and their suppliers would be destroyed. The downstream effects also would be serious. If NRP has its way, the livestock on which people in New York, in the United States, and around the world depend for sustenance, would be released from their alleged “imprisonment” and could no longer be raised for food in New York,” reads the brief, in part.

The Northeast Dairy Producers Association and Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance joined New York Farm Bureau in submitting a collective amicus curiae brief to elevate our concerns to the Court of Appeals. This case has the potential to affect various agricultural industries. 

New York Farm Bureau CEO Liz Dribusch said, “New York Farm Bureau has taken a great interest in this case and believes it is imperative that we standup for farmers who are involved in animal food production. All farm animals deserve to be well-cared for in humane conditions but giving an animal the right of a human, essentially freeing animals in confinement, is a giant step too far. We are hopeful the New York State Court of Appeals will thoroughly review all of the evidence and previous court rulings and make the only reasonable decision, to deny the elephant habeus corpus relief.”

“All animals deserve humane treatment and care and it is our duty as human beings  to provide for those species that cannot care for themselves.  Farmers know that their husbandry skills are essential for healthy, productive flocks and herds.  But, granting animals legal status reserved exclusively for humans goes way beyond our God given responsibility of animal welfare.  The question being considered by the Court of Appeals will have far reaching consequences throughout our society,”  Danielle Penny Stroop, President, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance.

Click here to read NYFB’s Amicus Curia Brief.

You may find the stream on the New York Court of Appeals website: https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/





New York Farm Bureau is the State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization. Its members and the public know the organization as “The Voice of New York Agriculture.” New York Farm Bureau is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community.