Unlocking The Cage, Changing the Fundamental and Legal Rights for Animals
Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans, by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform a chimpanzee from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with legal protections.
After 30 years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filing these first-ever lawsuits. Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse. Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.
Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve’s impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform our legal system, and the rights of animals, and one man’s lifelong quest to protect “nonhuman” animals.
Film Length: 91 minutes
Initial Release: January 25, 2016
“Captivity is just killing these guys.”
“All we can do is kick the first door open.”
“It’s a hell of a war, there will be a lot of battles in this war – but it’s time to begin!”
“We’re trying to change the way people view non-human animals, because right now if you’re a human—you have rights, if you’re not a human—you don’t. And we’re saying that’s wrong.”
More About the Film
Theater Schedule – also airs on HBO and BBC
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More about Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP)
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is the only organization working through the common law to achieve actual LEGAL rights for members of species other than our own. Their mission is to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty, and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them.
About Steven Wise
Steven Wise, President of the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the United States and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Steve teaches “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at several law schools and is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights; Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River.
Film Directors – Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker
Cinematography: Chris Hegedus
Producers: Chris Hegedus, Frazer Pennebaker, Rosadel Varela
Music Composed by: James Lavino
Pennebaker Hegedus Films