On Wednesday, the Ojai City Council decided 4-1 to give elephants legal rights. This makes Ojai the first city in the US to give legal rights to an animal that is not a person.
A press statement says that City Councilwoman Leslie Rule first came up with the idea for the ordinance earlier this year. She wrote the law because elephants in Ojai used to be used in circuses but were later moved to a big sanctuary for elephants. The ordinance said that elephants have complicated minds, feelings, and social lives, just like people, and they should be able to live free, healthy lives.
Rule said, “This ordinance will make it official for Ojai that an elephant has the basic right to bodily liberty. This means that you cannot hold an elephant captive in Ojai unless the space is similar to an approved sanctuary.” “Passing this ordinance will show that we are a society that is aware of the changes taking place in how we think about the emotional, psychological, and physical complexity of these big, sentient animals that are being kept in zoos.”
“It’s not a joke. We can make history and do good at the same time. Let’s push society to improve its basic understanding of how it connects with all animal beings. Even though there was a lot of disagreement about the ordinance, opponents were not able to stop the City Council from accepting the plan. In the end, 4 of the 5 council members agreed with it.
“It’s clear that elephants suffer when they are locked up, and laws about animal welfare can’t stop that,” said Courtney Fern, Director of Government Relations and Campaigns for the Nonhuman Rights Project. “The Ojai City Council did the right thing by standing up for what was necessary and fair. This is the first law of its kind to protect elephants and the nonhuman animal rights movement.”
Mark Scott, the manager of Ojai City, said, “We have known for a while that elephants are very sensitive to each other’s pain.” It makes me happy that we can say this in support of these good animals’ place in our world.
First in the Nation Ordinance Passed in Ojai
Even though the law was passed, many people aren’t sure how far it can go. The law says that “every member of the designated species in the City of Ojai, California has the right to bodily liberty.” It is the right of each member of the named species to be free to move around without being stopped. It also says that police officers can implement the ordinance. Others who were against the rule said it doesn’t do much and is more of a publicity stunt than a real law.
An expert on animal and wildlife laws, Justin Barker, told me, “You know the law you are trying to push isn’t good when you have to tell the press over and over, ‘This isn’t a joke.'” “I mean, you’re giving elephants rights in a single Californian city.” Not being able to physically fight the law will be hard. It seems like crazy people always find weird ways to fight these strange wildlife rules when they are passed. Back in the early 1990s, there was a big fuss in the Pacific Northwest over protecting spotted owls at the cost of loggers. Loggers reacted by doing things that were almost legal to get around the law before bringing it directly to the public’s attention. For example, they moved the birds.