Animals With Legal Rights

In Ecuador individual wild animals now have legal rights. It’s the first country in the world to do so. And it follows because in 2008 Ecuador became the first country to recognize that nature  or Pachamama, was an entity deserving rights. That law became part of the country’s constitution and yet it wasn’t clear whether wild animals were included. The new case has now settled that thanks to a woolly monkey named Estrellita. The monkey who had been illegally taken from the wild was kept as a pet by a librarian for 18 years. Owning wild animals is illegal in Ecuador and in 2019 Estrellita was taken from the librarian’s home and put in a zoo. A month later she died. The librarian did not know of the death and after Estrellita  was seized sued to have the pet returned on the ground  that her detention was illegal. What makes this story even more moving is that the court ruled in favor of the librarian, even if it was too late for Estrellita to be returned, but also ruled that the removal from her habitat  in the first place had been a violation of her rights. In Ecuador this verdict raises the issue of animal rights to that of the highest law of the land, the level of constitution. In essence the court’s decision  states that animals have rights protected by nature. This means that wild animals cannot be hunted, traded, fished, trafficked, captured, kept, collected, extracted, retained or exchanged. Following the example of Ecuador several countries now have granted legal protection to wild animals either through their courts or their constitution, countries like Columbia, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, Panama. That is only a beginning, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know other countries will join in.

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