The campaign to afford nonhuman animals "personhood" is in the news again, this time on behalf of a suffering orangutan. The Association of Professional Attorneys for the Rights of Animals (Afada) recently filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Sandra, an orangutan living at the Buenos Aires Zoo. This week, the petition was denied in court.
"Sandra is captive and living in absolute solitude at the zoo in the city of Buenos Aires," the group said in its court filing. They argued that the 20-year-old animal should be retired to live in a sanctuary.
A writ of habeas corpus is meant to prevent people from being unlawfully imprisoned. It demands that a prisoner appear in court, and that his guardian present proof of authority to keep him prisoner. In order for habeas corpus to apply to apes like Sandra, groups have defined these animals as "non-human persons," meaning they could have legal protection and the right to freedom from unjust imprisonment.
According to the Spanish language newspaper The Daily Clarin, Buenos Aires judge Mónica Berdión de Crudo ruled this week that in Sandra's case, the writ of habeas corpus does not apply. However, the judge ordered officials to investigate her living conditions and check whether they violated the condition of a federal animal welfare law.