But are they really entirely different? A Connecticut state court judge says they are in a decision to deny a legal request made by the Nonhuman Rights Project to grant elephants personhood. The group’s lawsuit against the Commerford Zoo, a traveling petting zoo based in Goshen, Connecticut, claims that elephants “have a sense of self, remember the past and plan for the future, engage in complex communication, show empathy, and mourn their dead.” The lawsuit asked the judge to release the elephants to a natural habitat sanctuary.
While it’s true that most of us wouldn’t ask an elephant to dinner outside of a children’s book, there’s a strong case to be made for their sentience. Maybe an intermediate step to personhood would be to designate elephants and other captive zoo animals–primates, for example–as employees, with the rights that accompany that status.