Site Map Tim Cliffe - Learning is best constantly exercised.

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Website last up-dated 2021-04-11

Non-human Person Rights (NhPR)

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Image of a Gorilla, Octopus, Crow, Dolphin, African Elephant, Scales of Justice.


The advanced intellectual, emotional, social and cultural capabilities of some non-human species have been suspected for a long time, in some cases millennia.


It is only in more recent decades, advances in technology and understanding have provided scientists and advocates with sufficient proof, of the capabilities of some non-human species, to justify claims such species should be given rights and protection, in law, similar to those humans give themselves under national law and international law, such as the United Nations Convention on Human Rights.


As a long-time advocate of Non-human Person Rights, I present the following to draw your attention to, and hopefully encourage your support for, this important matter.

Arguments Against NhPR

There are three main arguments opposed to the conferring of rights of a person upon non-humans:

  • Non-humans cannot be considered persons in law;
  • Religious beliefs;
  • Commercial Interests.

A Non-human Cannot be Considered a Person in Law

Image of the scales of justice

This is simply not true.


Just one example being the fact many countries have laws which give the same rights as a person to a company. A case-in-point being a Limited Company Inform Direct website
What is a Limited Company? (External link, opens in a new tab/window)
in the United Kingdom.


Other examples are given below under Non-humans with Human Rights.

Religious Beliefs

Image of various religious symbols

Certain religions state, for example:

  1. God made all things for the use of human kind;
  2. Humans are created in god's image;
  3. Humans are inherently superior.

Such arguments:

  • Rely on a position, often adopted thousands of years ago, which did not have access to the rigours of scientific study or its discoveries;
  • Place ancient doctrine and lack of knowledge before fact.

Commercial Interests

Image of various bank notes

Although there are certainly commercial consequences to the conferring of NhPR status upon certain non-humans, this is an argument heard less in public and more 'behind closed doors' by decision-makers, lobbyists and other influencers.


The reason for this cautious approach, in terms of public exposure, is simple. When comparing the moral and ethical treatment of sentient beings with financial consequences, it is all too easy to stray into a discussion which seeks to deny humane treatment to the benefit of financial gain. In short, one can easily be accused of defending positions akin to those which once supported the continuation of slavery.

Arguments for NhPR

Image of a Crow using a tool to get food.

"The cognitive capabilities of different Corvid species are impressive and rival primates."

When considering the law, what can be proven is paramount.


Whatever one's own religious position, and as a person of faith I too accept:

  • A god or goddess cannot be proven to exist;
  • It is not reasonable to expect others to subscribe to the same religious beliefs as oneself;
  • It is morally, ethically and culturally corrupt to seek to impose one's religious beliefs on others.

At the very least, this must include non-human species with similar capacities to ourselves.


The body of scientific evidence, together with widely reported events, proving and supporting the advanced intellectual, emotional, social and cultural capabilities of some non-human species, is substantial and undeniable.

Image of elephants mourning a dead leader

"They [Elephants] are adept tool users and co-operative problem solvers; they are highly empathic, comforting one another when upset; and they have a sense of self."

A Rarely Heard Argument

However, in addition to the research evidence and reports in support of the cause for NhPR, one argument is rarely heard.


As someone who has worked with people having profound learning disabilities, I am aware there are people with such significant disabilities they are incapable of functioning, be it intellectually, emotionally, socially or culturally, at a level comparable with a normally functioning one, two or three-year-old child.


When considering some of the arguments against NhPR, such arguments are, in effect, arguing against such people being entitled to their Inalienable Rights. It would appear, the discriminating criterium is simply whether or not one is human. This is clearly ridiculous.
It is, therefore, equally ridiculous to argue any species, capable of functioning at a significantly more advanced level than humans with profound disabilities, should be denied similar protections in law.

Image of two Dolphins collaborating to solve a problem

"Dolphin communication may be far more complex than human language."

It is unacceptable, for we as humans who consider ourselves advanced, moral and just, to deny others of similar capabilities what we provide for ourselves.

The scientific and commonly observed evidence, proving some species are far more advanced, intellectually, emotionally, socially and culturally, than previously believed, in and of itself raises a moral and ethical imperative to ensure we (humans) do not risk a future reality where we must acknowledge our failure to protect such advanced species from intellectual, emotional, social and cultural abuse, by our own hand.


The evidence is manifold and clear; some species must be recognised, without delay, as being deserving of the conferring of Non-human Person status, both throughout the world and especially in my native Britain.



The content below relates to research and reports proving the advanced intellectual, emotional, social and cultural capabilities of Dolphins.
This is not intended to suggest other species are not worthy of consideration with regard to NhPR.


Image of three types of Dolphin


When reading the following reports and research, it is easy to be impressed by the intelligence at work; however, also think about what needs to be understood by these mammals in order to behave as they do. Consider what they realise, what they anticipate, how they empathise, and what they reason about the capabilities of other species, including humans; very impressive, even by human standards.




Image of Sandra the Orang-utan. Sandra the Orang-utan (2015)

A court granted Sandra, a 29-year-old Orang-utan, the same rights as a human.


Image of the Muteshekau Shipu River, Canada. Muteshekau Shipu (Magpie) River (2021)

On February 23, 2021, the Alliance for the Protection of the Muteshekau Shipu in partnership with the International Observatory on the Rights of Nature, announced the recognition of legal personality and rights to the river.


Atrato River (2017)

A court granted the Atrato River the same rights as a human.

Image of the Columbian Amazon Rainforest. Amazon Rainforest (2018)

The Supreme Court granted the Amazon Rainforest, within its borders, the same rights as a human.


Ganges and Yamuna Rivers (2017)

A court, in the state of Uttarakhand, ruled the Ganges and Yamuna rivers have the same rights as a human.

Image of the Ganges River. All Animals in Uttarakhand State (2018)

A court, in the state of Uttarakhand, ruled all animals in the state have the same rights as humans.
Every citizen of the state was appointed guardians of the animals.

New Zealand

Te Urewera Forest (2014)

The government passed the Te Urewera Act, giving the eponymous forest the same rights as a human.
A board of humans was created as guardians, to speak and act on Te Urewera's behalf.

Te Awa Tupua River (2017)

A court ruled the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui) River has the same legal rights as a person.
A Maori and a government official were appointed as guardians, to speak and act on Te Awa Tupua's behalf.

Image of Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki (2017)

A court granted Mount Taranaki the same rights as a human.
As has become the norm in New Zealand, for natural geographical features, the government appointed a Maori and government official as guardians to speak and act on Mount Taranaki's behalf.

United States of America

Image of Hercules and Leo the Chimpanzees. Hercules and Leo the Chimpanzees (2015)

The Supreme Court issued a writ effectively giving Hercules and Leo the Chimpanzees the same rights as humans.

Happy the Elephant (2018) Image of Mount Taranaki.

A New York court granted 47-year-old Happy the Elephant the same rights as a human.



Logos of the Nonhuman Rights Project and Open Global Rights.

In effect, the countries listed under Non-humans with Human Rights are also NhPR organisations.


(Access Key = N)
Advocating Non-human Person Rights in Law
Image of a Silver Back Gorilla, a leaping Dolphin and an African Elephant.


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