In some countries, non-human entities such as animals, rivers, mountains and forests are often granted human status by the courts and in their eyes, they’re just as human as you and everyone else. Just a little reminder that any harm inflicted on these entities will carry the same level of punishment as harming humans. So take a look at these non-humans who you should be a little kinder to, lest you’re charged for hurting them.
1. Happy the Elephant
Sometime in November 2018, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) in New York successfully filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of Happy, the 47-year-old elephant who lives in a zoo in the Bronx. The group argued that Happy was lonely as she hardly interacted with other elephants and lived in a one-acre enclosure. She was the first elephant to be granted the same rights as humans, partly due to her passing the mirror self-recognition test, which is used to test self-awareness in animals. Sadly, there is still no progress in Happy’s living condition.
2. Whanganui River, New Zealand
In 2017, the Whanganui River became the first river to be granted human status, something the Maori tribe have been fighting for over 140 years. The tribe generally view non-living entities such as mountains, rivers and seas as sacred and that they hold the same rights as everyone else. The Whanganui River is different because they consider it to be one of their ancestors. As a result, anyone who brings harm to the river will be held accountable the same way they would if it were a human. Also, there are two people, a Maori and government official, who acts as the river’s guardian.
3. All the Animals in Uttarakhand
In Uttarakhand, it has been declared by the court that every citizen is a “loco parentis” or “in the place of a parent.” This goes for every single animal in the state and everyone is legally obligated to care for and protect them. The law also extends to domestic animals; owners of these animals are forbidden from using dangerous tools on them. Also, work animals must be freed from their harnesses when temperatures go over 37 °C or 98.6 °F and those used for transportation must be boldly marked to prevent accidents.
4. Atrato River
The Colombian court is one of the few that takes pollution and its effects on the Earth very seriously. So much so that they declared the Atrato River to be a human deserving of protection. They also stated that humans are one of the many species on Earth and should have no power over other creatures. Like many other water bodies in the world, the Atrato river has become heavily polluted to the point where it’s affecting aquatic life. Luckily, the government was ordered by the court to clean up the river.
5. The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is the largest forest in the world that, unfortunately, is shrinking every year due deforestation by farmers, loggers and miners. To preserve what is left of it, the Colombian court granted human rights to the forest and chastised the government for not doing more to protect it. Brazil, which owns a large chunk of the forest, has failed to do their part as well when it comes to deforestation. If anything, they considered suspending a law that banned the deforestation of the Amazon for sugarcane farming around the same time that Colombia passed their law.
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