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Court refuses to release elephants from zoo after campaigners say they are ‘persons entitled to liberty’

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A Connecticut court has refused to free three elephants from a zoo after an animal rights group asked it to do so.

The court ruled that Minnie, Beulah, and Karen do not qualify as “persons entitled to liberty and equality” under state law.

Judge James Bentivegna wrote in the decision that “the petition is wholly frivolous on its face” because it relied on applying “human rights of freedom and equality” to the animals.

The Nonhuman Rights Project and Stephen Wise filed the request with the state’s Superior Court in Hartford on behalf of the trio, who belong to a travelling Commerford Zoo based in Goshen, Connecticut, the Washington Post reported.

The writ of habeas corpus did not bring issue with any mistreatment of the elephants, but cited “deplorable living conditions”.

Instead, Mr Wise argued that Minnie, Beulah, and Karen “possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty, and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them”.

They range from 33 to 50 years old and have been with the zoo for nearly 30 years.

Zoo owner Tim Commerford said the elephants are “part of our family”.

“It’s not right to rip them from my family, from their home,” he told the newspaper, adding that he felt the animal rights group was “picking” on his zoo because it is small and family-owned.

The court ruled against Mr Wise also because he has had no prior relationship with the elephants.

Mr Wise said the group will amend its petition with the court and continue to pursue its cause.

This is not the first such case for him either. In June 2017, a New York court ruled against Mr Wise when he filed a petition to have two chimpanzees held in cages by private owners released.

The judge in that case wrote: “The asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of chimpanzees do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions.”



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