AR Philosophy > Legal Issues
Non-human Rights Project


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 festival attendees.

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 Hollywood Reporter.

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 captive elephants.

Kevin Schneider
Executive Director
The Nonhuman Rights Project

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