I was listening to a podcast from a fellow animal communicator and she brought up the case of Happy- one of the elephants at The Bronx Zoo. In case you didn't know, I was raised in the Bronx and would often go to the zoo as a child, and then later as an adult with my children. Zoos are controversial for animal enthusiasts. While we love to see them, there is the fact that the animals are not free to be who they are in their natural environment. That is not what this post is about, however. I want to talk about the Happy case.
A group tried to have the courts rule that Happy is a person. The thought process was that as a person, the laws we have in place would then also apply to Happy. The courts ruled that Happy is not a person. I have to agree. Happy is an elephant. However, I understand and agree with what people were trying to accomplish. They want what is best for Happy and other animals. I would have gone a different route, though.
The first thing is that instead of trying to redefine who Happy is, the focus should have been on acknowledging that all animals are sentient beings. This has already been agreed upon, so there would not be a challenge with that aspect. Next, I would have argued that ALL sentient beings are subject to the laws of Nature. Within those laws, each group has laws that protect them from other groups. Even humans are subject to the laws of Nature. We cannot, after all, imprison Nature for a devastating hurricane or natural disaster, right? At this point, someone would try to argue that if the above is true, then our human laws do not apply to other beings. I would agree, except, and this is a big EXCEPT, when humans capture animals or take them into our world, those animals are now forced to live within the human world and therefore must abide by our laws. If they must abide by our laws, then they must also be protected by them. BOOM!
Some people may say that Happy and other animals are well cared for and therefore, they are fine. That doesn't pass with me. If a child is kidnapped and kept in a tent 24/7 and fed, bathed, has occasional medical care, and the occasional interaction with the kidnapper, would you say that child has a good life? Would you say they are happy? Would you say they have a good life? BOOM!
Happy was one of the first animals that I communicated with as a child. I distinctly remember telling my mom "Happy is not happy". This began my love-hate relationship with zoos. I loved being near animals, but I hated to hear how dissatisfied they were with their life. Hearing how they missed their families, how they were so bored, and how they just wanted to roam and be free broke my heart. Animals are not meant to live in a human world with human expectations and restrictions. Humans have to stop thinking this is OUR world. We are but one species that SHARE the planet.
It is said that Happy has a nice relationship with his caretakers and because of this, humans believe he is happy. I had a nice relationship with some teachers, but that did not make up my life. Those moments do not sustain anyone for life. When it comes to animals, authorities confuse acceptance with happiness. Let's change how we think about animals so that all animals can have the life they deserve. It is all life's birthright to be free, to live with and form bonds with beings of our choosing, and to be respected, not captured or manipulated or forced into servitude. Let's get Happy and others to sanctuaries where they can be free and truly happy.