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Happy has lived at the Bronx Zoo for most of her 48 years, and for more than a decade has remained largely isolated and lonely. Like all elephants, Happy has a complex mind and a deep social, intellectual, and emotional life; she desires to make choices and has a sense of self-recognition. But like all nonhuman animals, Happy is considered a thing in the eye of the law, with no fundamental rights. Due to a series of groundbreaking legal cases, however, this is beginning to change—and Happy’s liberation is at the forefront. A vibrant and personal graphic novel, Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood traces this moving story and makes the legal and scientific case for animal personhood.
Led by lawyer Steven M. Wise and aided by some of the world’s most respected animal behavior and cognition scientists, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed cases on behalf of nonhuman animals like Happy since 2013. Through this work, they have forced courts to consider the evidence of their clients’ cognitive abilities and their legal arguments for personhood, opening the door for similar cases worldwide. In Thing, comic artists Sam Machado and Cynthia Sousa Machado bring together Wise’s groundbreaking work and their powerful illustrations in the first graphic nonfiction book about the animal personhood movement. Beginning with Happy’s story and the central ideas behind animal rights, Thing then turns to the scientists that are revolutionizing our understanding of the minds of nonhuman animals such as great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. As we learn more about these creatures’ inner lives and autonomy, the need for the greater protections provided by legal rights becomes ever more urgent.
With cases like Happy’s growing in number and spanning from Argentina to India, nations around the world are beginning to recognize the rights of animals. Combining legal and social history, innovative science, and illustrated storytelling, Thing presents a visionary new way of relating to the nonhuman world.
About the Author
Cynthia Sousa Machado and Sam Machado are the-husband-and-wife team behind the cartoons "I Got This" and "If I Don’t Get Pants." Their work together involves identity, politics and social justice issues. Their editorial cartoons have been found in the Guardian, The New Republic and Redbook. You can find their webcomic Cyberbunk on LINE Webtoon. Cynthia and Sam live and illustrate in Miami, FL.
Steven M. Wise is founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the US and is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights; Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy: Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. Wise has taught Animal Rights Law at Harvard, Stanford, and seven other law schools. He holds a J.D. from BU Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary.