A River in New Zealand Has Just Been Granted Personhood! Is it Time to Extend the Same Courtesy to Animals?

By Abhijit Muduganti

New Zealand’s third longest river, the Whanganui, has recently been granted personhood by the country’s government in an unprecedented move. It just became the world’s first natural resource to be given the status and rights of a legal person after 150 years of struggle by the indigenous Whanganui iwi community. Nobody can deny the great benefits the declaration is going to provide those who depend on the river, but it also shows us that human beings are capable of extending our fundamental rights to entities outside our species. This begs the obvious question - is it time to seriously consider recognizing non-human animals as legal persons with the same fundamental rights as us?

The Nonhuman Rights Project thinks the answer is a resounding yes. They campaign to change the legal status of animals such as apes and dolphins from ‘things’ to ‘persons.’ In fact, they were at a hearing at a New York court yesterday, making a case for the freedom of two chimpanzees.This might seem like a very daunting task, but it is strongly backed by science and logic. An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that members of most animal species are sentient beings who are ‘aware.’ It is obvious that nonhuman animals value their lives and freedom just as we do, and thus, it is obvious that their desires as conscious beings should be respected. When one looks into the eyes of their companion dogs and cats, they don’t see a ‘thing;’ they see a thinking, feeling being. One-third of Americans believe that animals should have the same rights as humans to be free from harm and exploitation. Human society is finally beginning to openly admit what should have always been evident.

So why do we continue to regard nonhuman animals as mere commodities? Why do we torture them in labs? Why do we enslave and slaughter them for food? Why do we insist on inflicting fear and suffering upon them?

It is time to reevaluate our morals and laws to reflect rationality and compassion. It is time to discard our outdated descartian view of nonhuman beings and finally give them the rights they deserve. It is time for animal liberation!

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