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Founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project speaks to students, gains enthusiasm

This month’s second Sidore Lecture Series speaker, Steven M. Wise, is much more than your average animal rights activist. Wise actually represents non-human animals in court, filing lawsuits on behalf of mistreated chimpanzees and elephants

For more than 30 years, the Saul O. Sidore Memorial Lecture series has invited members of the UNH community to open their minds and question everything they thought they knew about society. With help from engaging speakers like Wise, the Sidore Lectures examine the numerous stimulating conversations occurring on and off the UNH campus.

Wise’s lecture, “The Nonhuman Rights Project’s Struggle to Attain Legal Rights for Nonhuman Animals,” marks the most recent of the Sidore Lecture series to make its way to the UNH campus on this past Tuesday, March 28.

Amongst Wise’s immense list of accomplishments and job titles, he is currently the founder and president of the NonHuman Rights Project. The main goal of his project is to secure rights for non-human animals establishing legal personhood in United States court.

“I want to create an interest around my field,” said Wise on why he speaks publically about his profession. “I want people to come to these lectures and crystalize their thoughts about the mistreatment of animals and put those thoughts into actions. Much like I did.”

During the lecture, Wise discussed where his interest in the unusual field of nonhuman animal rights originated. Wise’s journey began in 1980 after reading a book, which detailed the United States’ exploitation of billions of non-human animals a year. The mistreatment of these innocent animals appalled Wise. However, he was even more appalled by the fact that no one represented these creatures. Reading that book would change the course of his life forever, he said, as that very same day he told his law partner he was quitting to focus on representing non-human animals in court.

“I’m a firm believer in doing something with your life that makes you happy, and during these lectures I want students to realize that I am an example of this. I found something that makes me happy and that I’m passionate about, and I made a career out of it,” Wise said.

Wise’s career has been both exceptional and revolutionary. In December 2013, Wise filed the first three lawsuits under the common law for the rid of habeas corpus, a law ordering a person in custody to be brought before a court, of chimpanzees in the state of New York. These lawsuits were the first major step in securing rights for non-human animals. Although the lawsuits were ultimately dismissed, it has not discouraged Wise a bit, who recently filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of elephants forced to perform in a traveling circus.

“I was very excited to listen to this lecture because I think I see the world a little differently than most people,” UNH sophomore Ella Cedarholm said. “Because I am a vegan I see myself as equal with all living things and it was really incredible to have an opportunity to hear someone who shares these views of equality with nature.”

Cedarholm wasn’t the only student enthusiastic about Wises’ lecture; however, others were excited for alternative reasons.

“I did some research about the speaker Steven Wise and saw his extensive law background, and since I aspire to get into the field, I thought it be a great opportunity,”  UNH sophomore Elliott Greene said. “The lecture ended up being really unique and interesting. It’s something that definitely deserves a lot more attention.”

Although Wises’ lecture has concluded, his work has not. He continues his 38-year career of fighting passionately to secure the rights of animals who are unable to fight for themselves.

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