A California city has passed a law that protects elephants’ legal right to be free to move around. The important law was the first law to protect the rights of animals other than humans. At a meeting on Tuesday, September 26, the Ojai City Council passed the law. For years, people who care about animal rights have been pushing for this law.
Courtney Fern, head of Government Relations at the Nonhuman Rights Project, said, “Recognizing elephants’ right to bodily liberty is the only way to truly protect them from harm caused by humans, now and in the long run.” The law was approved by the Ojai City Council by a vote of 4 to 1. Fern spoke before the vote.
Fern said, “Through scientific research and observations, we have learned not only what elephants need to thrive but also how being locked up hurts them physically and mentally in huge ways.” “Right now, as we gather here, 19 elephants are being held against their will in small exhibits in California. They are being held there unfairly to help their human captors.”
In the 1980s, an elephant named Tarra was held captive in Ojai Valley and made to roller skate for people’s pleasure. This led to significant changes in animal protection laws in Ojai. She was moved to a shelter in Tennessee in 1995. She was the first person to live in the U.S.’s biggest elephant sanctuary. Over the years, 32 elephants that used to work in zoos and circuses have moved into the refuge.
According to the law, it is against the law in Ojai to keep elephants in “captive settings that deprive them of their autonomy and ability to engage in their innate behaviors.” People who fight for animal rights say that more needs to be done, even though this law is a step forward.
“Laws about animal welfare can help lessen elephants’ pain, but they don’t fix the real problem, which is that they’ve lost their freedom,” Fern said. “Elephants are magnificent beings; they are independent, self-aware, and have outstanding emotional intelligence.”