In a landmark judgment, Ecuador, located in the Andean foothills, became the first country to recognize the legal rights of individual wild animals. This not only marks a remarkable development in the field of environmental law, but it is also the first to extend formal rights to wild animals.
It is the story of a wild animal monkey named Estrellita. Estrellita was one when she was illegally removed from the forest; for 18 years thereafter, she was kept as a pet and then taken to a zoo before she died. Her owner, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit for the country to recognize Estrellita’s rights, arguing that his removal from her the natural habitat has violated its dignity.
“The domestication and humanization of wild animals are phenomena that have a great impact on the maintenance of ecosystems and the balance of nature, because they cause the gradual decline of animal populations,” the court recognized. in his decision.
The verdict builds on a 2008 ruling that set a precedent for recognizing nature itself as a tangible legal entity; which, by extension, meant that people had a constitutional right to live in a healthy environment. The recent decision then confirms that even individual animals can exercise this right to live in their natural habitats. The basis invoked was that the animal has a legal right by virtue of its own value, not the value that humans derive from the species.
“The verdict elevates animal rights to the level of the constitution, Ecuador’s highest law,” mentioned Hugo Echeverría, Ecuadorian environmental lawyer. Some countries (such as New Zealand and Canada) have policies in place that provide some protection for animals. But it can be argued that incorporating this right into the constitution remains an ideal currently unmatched anywhere else in the world.
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“Wild species and their individuals have the right not to be hunted, fished, captured, collected, extracted, preserved, preserved, trafficked, traded or traded,” the court also noted. This means in practice that animals have the legal right to exist freely in ecosystems. “This means that hunting, fishing, gathering and forestry are still permitted as long as they are carried out within the framework of other pre-existing laws – for example, not in defiance of endangered species laws – and are conducted in such a way as to limit suffering”, as ScienceAlert Noted.
Giving legal protection to the environment becomes a relevant conversation within the legal system. In the past, countries like Colombia, New Zealand, Panama, Chile and Mexico have constitutionally offered legal protection of nature. Nature, noted the Panamanian parliament, has the right to exist, to persist and to regenerate its life cycles. In other words, Panama from 2023, the government will have to take into account the impact of its policies on natural ecosystems – the mangroves, the rivers, the beautiful green blankets. Because nature exists as “a single, indivisible and self-regulating community of interdependent living beings, elements and ecosystems that supports, contains and reproduces all beings”.
The legality now offered to animals must be seen in the context of a worsening climate crisis; experts note that we are currently in the middle of the sixth mass extinction animals are on the verge of extinction.
“These laws are already proving to be an important legal tool to protect nature, including animals,” Stilt concluded.