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Pablo Escobar’s hippos lead a charge for animal rights


CORPORATIONS HAVE loved authorized personhood because the 19th century. Now, it appears, they’ve firm. A dispute over the destiny of hippos in Colombia has given rise to a federal courtroom ruling in Ohio that, for the primary time in American regulation, recognises animals as individuals.

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This could come as welcome information to the 100-plus hippos of Colombia’s Magdalena river. They’re the offspring of 4 hippos smuggled into the nation by Pablo Escobar, a drug lord. After Escobar died in a shoot-out with police in 1993, different specimens from his unique menagerie—ostriches, zebras, flamingos—discovered new properties in zoos. However the hippos took up residence within the mud of the Magdalena and obtained to reproducing.

The surfeit of hippos has coated lakes with algae and will displace otters, manatees and endangered turtles. Hippos have begun wandering into villages, too—a potential peril for human individuals. Final yr the federal government thought of a cull, prompting a Colombian lawyer to take up the trigger. The hippos, his lawsuit says, take pleasure in safety below Colombian regulation and should not be killed.

Decide Karen Litkovitz, the federal choose in Ohio, doesn’t get to resolve the hippos’ destiny. However on October 15th she agreed with the Animal Authorized Defence Fund that the hippos are “ individuals” below a regulation allowing international litigants to collect proof in America that will buttress their claims. Specialists in non-surgical sterilisation will probably be deposed for their insights on PZP, a contraceptive that might spare the hippos whereas dampening their progress.

America shouldn’t be the primary nation to treat animals as authorized individuals. An Indian courtroom cited the structure in banning a bullfighting competition in 2014. A choose in Argentina dominated that Sandra, an orangutan, was a non-human individual eligible for higher environs than her concrete enclosure in a Buenos Aires zoo; she now luxuriates in a sanctuary in Florida. In 2020 a courtroom in Islamabad, confronted with instances involving stray canine, an elephant and a bear, recognised the “proper of every animal…to reside in an setting that meets the latter’s behavioural, social and physiological wants”.

Decide Litkovitz’s resolution shouldn’t be couched in such sweeping phrases. It stays to be seen whether or not different American courts take her cue in instances reminiscent of that of Glad, an elephant on the Bronx Zoo who has proven indicators of self-awareness and distress. In 2022 New York’s highest courtroom will think about whether or not the writ of habeas corpus—safety from unjust imprisonment—applies to Glad.

This text appeared in the USA part of the print version below the headline “Wallow on”

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