The Constitutional Court of Ecuador recognizes the rights of animals in a landmark judgment

Ecuador was the first country to include natural rights in its national constitution. When the case was before him Ecuador Constitutional Court, judges have been elected to examine several issues, including: the scope of the country’s rights to care for nature; whether the animals are legal entities; and whether Estrellita’s rights were violated. The Court has ruled in seven or two votes that natural rights include animals, so that animals are subjects of rights. The Court has also indicated that habeas corpus may be an appropriate measure for animals and may have rights from sources other than the Constitution.

“This judgment elevates the rights of animals to the level of the constitution, the highest law Ecuador“said Hugo Echeverría, a leading Ecuadorian environmental lawyer who drew the NhRP’s attention to the case.” Although nature rights were enshrined in the constitution, it was not clear before the decision whether individual animals could benefit from nature and nature rights. considered to be part of nature. The Court has ruled that animals are protected by natural rights. “

The detailed decision of the court applies directly to the ensemble amicus curiae the case of Professor Estrellita Kristen Stilt and Macarena Montes, a researcher in the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Rights and Policy Program at Harvard Law School (ALPP) and its attorneys Steven M. Wise and Kevin Schneider with the help of Marianné Núñez Núñez and Raquel Cerezo Martínez, members of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), both of whom graduated from the NhRP through the autonomous institution. University of Barcelona Master’s Degree Program in Animal Law and Society. The decision is also available in the original Spanish and English translations prepared by the groups.

Their joint amicus prospectus stated that the rights of nature must protect non-human animals, including individual animals such as the Estrellita. He argued that even if the Court had dealt mainly with species-level protection, species are composed of individual animals and that what happens to an animal can have a significant effect on the species. Did you explain that it would be arbitrary to draw a line for the number of animals needed for counting – 2, 3, 4, 10? One should be enough. The Court accepted the arguments in the prospectus, which questioned the traditional view that nature rights protect only ecosystems and species, not individuals.

In short, the representatives of the ALPP and the NhRP urged the Court to find that:

(1) Non-human animals may be subject to rights.
(2) Documents habeas corpus may be suitable for non-human animals.
(3) Non-human animals are subject to rights protected by natural rights.

The prospectus also called on the relevant government agencies to establish protocols that guarantee the rights of non-human animals under nature and the rights of nature. habeas corpus.

In response to the decision, Professor Kristen Stiltthe faculty director of the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Rights and Policy Program at Harvard Law School said, “The concept of nature rights is not well known in the United States, but in other parts of the world, e.g. South America, proves to be an important legal instrument for the protection of nature, including animals. And even in the United States, efforts are underway to recognize the rights of rivers, lakes, and other natural habitats. The ruling of the Ecuadorian court is exemplary for all jurisdictions worldwide. ”

Steven M. Wisethe chairman of the Nonhuman Rights Project added: “This decision represents a huge step forward in the global fight for non-human rights. We hope and anticipate fundamental legal changes for non-human animals. The United States not far away.”

Notes to editors:

Ecuador was the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature at the constitutional level. Next December 2, 2021 In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court applied the rights of natural resources to ban mining in the Los Cedros Protected Forest.

Experts will discuss the Estrellita decision at Harvard Law School’s 2022 Animal Law Week. Thursday, March 24 at 12:45 ET. The panel discussion is open to the press and the public. Register here. For more information or an interview with Hugo Echeverria, Steven Wiseor a professor Kristen Stiltcontact:

Read more work on the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Rights and Policy Program on constitutional provisions related to animal welfare.

ALPP and NhRP background:

The Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Rights and Policy Program at Harvard Law School is committed to analyzing and improving the treatment of animals by the legal system. professor and faculty director Kristen Stilt and Macarena Montes, a legal researcher, wrote on behalf of the ALPP.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in Hungary The United States it is intended solely to guarantee the rights of non-human animals. President Steven M. Wise and executive director Kevin Schneider wrote the prospectus on behalf of the NhRP.

More about the verdict:

Constitutional Court of Ecuador warned that animals need to be protected not only from an ecosystem perspective or from a perspective that focuses on the needs of human beings, but above all from a perspective that focuses on their needs. individuality and intrinsic value (Paragraph 79).

This becomes relevant because we only protect animal species – ignoring their protection some animalswhich in turn constitute the species, endangers a significant number of animals and feeds the idea of ​​the possibility of extinction. Even in the case of non-endangered species, neglect or failure to protect individuals is affected (paragraph 126).

The Court has not only recognized animals as subjects of rights protected by natural rights, but has also outlined the rights that apply to some or all animals. These include:

  • Right of existence (paragraph 111).
  • Prohibition of hunting, fishing, capture, gathering, extraction, keeping, detention, trafficking in human beings, trade or exchange (paragraph 112).
  • The right to the free development of their animal behavior (paragraph 112), which includes the right to behavior learned and passed on among their instincts, the innate behavior of their species, and members of their population, and the right to free development. their biological cycles, processes and interactions (paragraph 113). Animals must be provided with sufficient space and social conditions to allow their animal behavior to develop freely (paragraph 137).
  • Right to liberty and good life (paragraph 119). Animals have the right to free movement (paragraph 137).
  • The right to food according to the nutritional needs of the species (paragraph 119). Animals must have access to adequate food and water to maintain their health and strength (paragraph 137).
  • The right to live in harmony (paragraph 119).
  • The right to health (paragraph 119). Animals must be provided with adequate health conditions to protect their health and physical integrity (paragraph 137).
  • Right of residence (paragraph 119).
  • Right to claim their rights from the competent authorities (paragraph 121).
  • The right to physical, mental and sexual integrity (paragraph 133).
  • The right to live in an environment appropriate to each species, with appropriate conditions of refuge and rest (paragraph 137).
  • Right to life (paragraph 155). Animals must be allowed to live in a non-violent environment and free from disproportionate cruelty, fear and anxiety (paragraph 137).

In addition, the Court noted that the rights of wild animals to life, liberty and inviolability must be protected, inter alia, regardless of the claims, intentions or desires of third parties. If judges find that “the deprivation or restriction of wild liberty is unlawful, they must provide the most appropriate alternative in order to preserve the life, liberty, inviolability, and other related rights of the victim. […]”(Paragraph 173). It follows that the environmental authority a Ecuador did not meet that requirement by placing Estrellita in the zoo. It is possible that the circumstances of the zoo contributed to his death.

Although written habeas corpus In the case of Estrellita, who was not available because of her death, the Court found that, depending on the circumstances of the case, a request for the release of a game could be an appropriate measure.

The Court explained that, although the rights to nature have so far been examined in “protection actions”, this is a specific type of action. Ecuador, this does not mean that a protection measure is the only appropriate measure to protect the rights of nature or any of its elements, including animals. Therefore, the Court has ruled that judges must consider which act best suits the circumstances and allegations of the case, suggesting that other acts may be appropriate to protect nature and animal rights, such as. habeas corpus.

In addition, the Constitutional Court Ecuador called on the Ministry of the Environment to draw up a protocol to assess the conditions and needs of captive wildlife in order to guarantee their protection; this is exactly what the prospectus suggested. In addition, the Court ordered the Ombudsman and Congress to prepare and approve a bill on animal rights based on the rights and principles set out in the judgment.

In the wake of the catastrophic climate crisis and the sixth mass extinction of species, the Constitutional Court Ecuador judgment is one of the most important legal advances in recent years in the field of animal rights and environmental law. Until this verdict, lawyers, scientists, and advocates have focused on protecting nature on ecosystems and species, not individuals. In addition, much of the work on nature rights did not consider animals to be rights holders. The pioneering ruling of the Court of Justice promotes the constitutional protection of animals, from the level of the species to the individual, with their own inherent value and needs.

SOURCE Non-human rights project

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