cover image Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood

Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood

Samuel Machado and Cynthia Sousa Machado, with Steven M. Wise. Island, $30 (232) ISBN 978-1-642-83085-9

This essential graphic account of the fight for certain animals to achieve legal “personhood” from animal rights activist Wise (Rattling the Cage) and married cartoonists the Machados (Cyberbunk) opens with the story of Happy, an Asian elephant captured in Thailand and sold to the Bronx Zoo,where she lives in isolation. The Nonhuman Rights Project (founded by Wise) argues that because she demonstrates autonomy, under the legal doctrine of habeas corpus, Happy should be granted “bodily liberty” and moved to a sanctuary where her well-being takes priority. The New York agricultural industry—wary that such rights would extend to other animals—lobbies against the cause. The authors acknowledge that “even today’s animal welfare laws provide greater protections than the legal rights historically held by married women, children, and enslaved humans,” but argue convincingly that greater rights should be afforded to all. With artwork resembling courtroom sketches, the Machados excerpt legal documents and depict human and nonhuman heroes with sober realism. Images echo throughout, as if to show how the same scenario might be viewed from different legal and moral angles. It’s a thought-provoking and inspiringly hopeful manifesto. (June)