Charity of the Month | The Nonhuman Rights Project
by Sica Schmitz | Posted on September 01 2016
Helping others is at the foundation of Bead & Reel and so each month we Give Back a portion of each sale to a new, worthy cause. As a vegan-owned, all vegan company, one of our goals is to promote kindness towards animals so we were thrilled to be able to give back to an organization we admire so much, the Nonhuman Rights Project.
Animals are are complex individuals who have deep emotions, understand each others’ minds, live in complicated societies, transmit culture, use sophisticated communication, solve difficult problems, and even mourn the loss of their loved ones. Just like humans.
But they are still considered property, poached and taken from their natural habitats, separated and held against their will, subjected to cruel experimentation, exploited for entertainment, sold on the black market, and used, abused, and treated like objects for human's amusement and financial gain. These experiences scar them for life and the Nonhuman Rights Project is working to change this by using the law.
The Nonhuman Rights Project is unlike any other organization in the world. Founded in 2007 by attorney Steven M. Wise, they are the only group working through the common law to fight for actual legal rights for members of species other than our own. Through education and litigation, they are fighting to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals like chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and whales from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty.
What is your favorite part of working at NhRP?
As the NhRP’s Communications Manager, and someone who started as a volunteer while I was in grad school for literature and animal studies, I find it thrilling to be involved in the everyday work of an organization that is boldly going where no animal advocacy or civil rights organization has gone before. I especially enjoy connecting with and learning more about our supporters, which really helps to inform and enrich what we’re doing. And I don’t know why this is, exactly, but my colleagues at the NhRP are all incredibly nice, easygoing people. I say this having met only Steve in person! We telecommute from all over and email all day long and have a lot of conference calls. It’s an interesting way to work, and I love it, though I do hope to meet everyone in person at some point, especially the people I’ve known for three years now!
Why are nonhuman rights important to you?
Nonhuman animals’ lack of rights is an abstraction to many people—something that isn’t necessarily thought about—but the suffering that results from their legal thinghood is real and connects to so many other causes that are also important to me, such as human rights and environmental protection. It’s about changing the way we relate to other beings and how we live on this planet, and demanding that our legal systems keep up!
This is such a serious and complex topic, what keeps you motivated?
As I said, we all work from home, so when something big happens, like Justice Jaffe issuing an order for Stony Brook University to appear in court to justify its detainment of Hercules and Leo, or the New Iberia Research Center announcing it would release Hercules, Leo, and 218 other chimpanzees to sanctuary, we’re not all necessarily in the same place. We’re hashing out our reactions over email, or the legal team is gathered in a hotel room and filling in the rest of us over email. Whatever the case, the exuberance in the email threads is palpable, and contagious, and inspiring—and although you might be processing the news on your own, sitting at your computer, you nevertheless feel part of this incredible community of animal rights advocates, and grateful that there are attorneys (I myself am not one!) who are willing to go to court for these animals. I imagine the experience is similar for our supporters. It’s a powerful thing!
Howe can we help?
Right now, we’re gearing up for the next step in our long-term litigation campaign—continuing our work to get chimpanzees Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo into sanctuaries and also filing new lawsuits on behalf of captive elephants. 2016 is our year of ramping up what we’re doing on all fronts and opening up new fronts. For more than a year, we’ve been working on a long-term strategic plan that will add political work to reinforce our legal work. We just began advertising for a Political Director this week.
Where can people watch 'Unlocking the Cage'?
It premiered at Sundance in January and has screened all over the country and world in the last few months. And the screenings keep on coming! We suggest visiting www.unlockingthecagethefilm.com to stay up to date. If the film doesn’t screen near you, it’ll be on HBO starting in January of 2017!