Unlocking the Cage, HBO/Pennebaker Hegedus Films' new
documentary about the Nonhuman Rights Project, had a truly amazing reception
at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
The 500-person audience at the world premiere on Jan. 25th gave it a standing
ovation, while packed crowds at each of the five screenings where NhRP President
Steven M. Wise was present to answer questions weren't shy about expressing
their interest or enthusiasm during the Q&As or in the conversations that Steve
and I, along with NhRP attorneys Monica Miller and Sarah Stone, had with
In the film, Steve makes a statement that underlies all the work we've done and
will do: recognition of nonhuman rights "is going to happen … It's not going to
be a straight line, that's for sure. But it's time to begin."
We're grateful that you've chosen to be part of the beginning of this legal
journey toward freedom and justice for unlawfully imprisoned nonhuman animals
everywhere. However long it takes, we'll be there for our plaintiffs, and since
we know you're right there with us, we can't wait for you to see Unlocking the
Cage when it premieres on HBO this fall.
If you're interested in hosting a public screening of the film, please
contact Pennebaker Hegedus Films beginning this summer.
For more on Unlocking the Cage at Sundance, we
recommend this special guest post on our website by Michael Mountain (editor
of Earth in Transition and former NhRP Communications Director); this
interview with director Chris Hegedus and
another with Hegedus and her co-director D.A. Pennebaker; and
this review in Screen Daily and the
We are continuing to press ahead in our legal fight for the freedom of our
first chimpanzee plaintiffs, on whose behalf we first filed suit in New York
State in Dec. 2013. Here are updates on Kiko, Hercules and Leo, and Tommy:
Kiko: On Jan. 29th, New York County Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe refused
to issue an Order to Show Cause because she still feels bound by the Third
Department decision in Tommy's case that a plaintiff must be able to shoulder
duties and responsibilities in order to be a "person" for any purpose and that
chimpanzees cannot shoulder duties and responsibilities. This was despite our
adding roughly 60 pages of affidavits that demonstrate that chimpanzees
routinely shoulder duties and responsibilities both within chimpanzee
communities and within human/chimpanzee communities. We're already preparing our
appeal to the First Appellate Department.
Hercules and Leo: As you know, Hercules and Leo were moved back to the New
Iberia Research Center in Louisiana in December. We're preparing a campaign in
which we will apply pressure to move Hercules and Leo from New Iberia to Save
the Chimps sanctuary.
Tommy: We just learned that Tommy was moved to a roadside zoo in Michigan. We're
weighing all our options to have Tommy also moved to Save the Chimps.
Again, thank you for your support for our plaintiffs. Kiko, Hercules, Leo, and
Tommy might not know that there are people out there working to secure their
freedom, people from all over the world who know that their legal thinghood is
unjust and that, as self-aware, autonomous beings, they should never have been
imprisoned in the first place. But every person who advocates for them is
helping other people realize that it's morally wrong to deprive them of their
bodily liberty and that it should be legally wrong, too.
And of course, chimpanzees are far from the only nonhuman animals who suffer
because we have not yet recognized their personhood and fundamental rights. That
is why our next case -- to be filed later this year -- will be on behalf of
The Nonhuman Rights Project