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Personhood Beyond the Human, Dec. 6-8, 2013, Yale University

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    United Poultry Concerns - http://www.UPC-online.org/ 11 December 2013 Personhood Beyond the Human, Dec. 6-8, 2013, Yale University Experts Gather at Yale to
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2013
      United Poultry Concerns - http://www.UPC-online.org/
      11 December 2013

      Personhood Beyond the Human, Dec. 6-8, 2013, Yale University

      Experts Gather at Yale to Discuss Whether Animals Are People

      By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns:

      The above report, by conference speaker George Dvorsky on last weekend's
      Personhood Beyond the Human (http://nonhumanrights.net) conference at Yale,
      reveals the growing support among ethicists, lawyers, scientists and others for
      changing the status of nonhuman animals from one of legal thinghood, with no
      rights, to a status of personhood with a capacity for legal rights. The Nonhuman
      Rights Project (http://www.nonhumanrightsproject.org), founded by attorney
      Steven Wise, who spoke at the conference, is breaking the ground on legal rights
      for nonhuman animals, for whom, he says, "The passage from thing to person
      constitutes a legal transubstantiation."

      While nonhuman primates were the focus of the conference, reflecting the
      Nonhuman Rights Project's lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees, as a speaker I
      seized the opportunity to shine a light on chickens in my Sunday, Dec. 8
      presentation, "The Provocative Elitism of 'Personhood' for Nonhuman Creatures in
      Animal Advocacy Parlance and Polemics." A summary of my talk and others' talks
      can be read at http://nonhumanrights.net/abstracts. Conference photos appear at
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/nonhumanrights/sets and video of the conference
      will soon be online.

      Since a criterion for "personhood" is often cited as a nonhuman animal's
      demonstration of self-recognition in a mirror and related signs of
      self-awareness, I read aloud the following excerpt from my essay The Social Life
      of Chickens (http://www.upc-online.org/thinking/social_life_of_chickens.html)
      which I distributed to the audience:

      Chickens in my experience have a core identity and sense of themselves as
      chickens. An example is a chick I named Fred, sole survivor of a classroom
      hatching project in which embryos were mechanically incubated. Fred was so
      large, loud and demanding from the moment he set foot in our kitchen, I assumed
      he'd grow up to be a rooster. He raced up and down the hallway, hopped up on my
      shoulder, leapt to the top of my head, ran across my back, down my arm and onto
      the floor when I was at the computer, and was generally what you'd call "pushy,"
      but adorably so. I remember one day putting Fred outdoors in an enclosure with a
      few adult hens on the ground, and he flew straight up the tree to a branch,
      peeping loudly, apparently wanting no part of them.

      "Fred" grew into a lustrously beautiful black hen whom I renamed Freddaflower.
      Often we'd sit on the sofa together at night while I watched television or read.
      Even by herself, Freddaflower liked to perch on the arm of the sofa in front of
      the TV when it was on, suggesting she liked to be there because it was our
      special place. She ran up and down the stairs to the second floor as she
      pleased, and often I would find her in the guestroom standing prettily in front
      of the full-length mirror preening her feathers and observing herself. She
      appeared to be fully aware that it was she herself she was looking at in the
      mirror. I'd say to her, "Look, Freddaflower - that's you! Look how pretty you
      are!" And she seemed already to know that.

      Freddaflower loved for me to hold her and pet her. She demanded to be picked up.
      She would close her eyes and purr while I stroked her feathers and kissed her
      face. From time to time, I placed her outside in the chicken yard, and sometimes
      she ventured out on her own, but she always came back. Eventually I noticed she
      was returning to me less and less, and for shorter periods. One night she
      elected to remain in the chicken house with the flock. From then on until she
      died of ovarian cancer in my arms two years later, Freddaflower expressed her
      ambivalence of wanting to be with me but also wanting to be with the other hens,
      to socialize and nest with them and participate in their world and the reliving
      of ancestral experiences that she carried within herself.

      An article about the conference in The New York Times, "Considering the Humanity
      of Nonhumans," Dec. 9, quotes another attorney on the Nonhuman Rights Project
      and the prospect of consideration of personhood in chickens or rats:

      "The Nonhuman Rights Project's vision is radical, and one that most legal
      observers consider unlikely to succeed in the near future. Jonathan Lovvorn,
      senior litigator at the Humane Society of the United States, says the Nonhuman
      Rights Project arguments are academically powerful but 'just not feasible' as a
      legal strategy.

      "It's simply too much to ask of a judge, especially at the trial level, said
      Lovvorn in WIRED's in-depth analysis of the lawsuits. Judges might be reluctant
      to consider claims that might invite consideration of personhood in chickens or
      rats. They might just feel, in a primal, gut-level way, that legal rights are
      for humans."

      Imagine if such defeatist views had prevailed during the Civil Rights and
      Suffragist Movements in the 20th century and the Gay Rights Movement in the
      21st. Fortunately, they did not. - UPC.

      United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
      the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
      Don't just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
      http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews

      View this article online
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