Happy has lived at the Bronx Zoo for most of her 48 years, and for more than a decade has remained largely isolated and lonely. Like all elephants, Happy has a complex mind and a deep social, intellectual, and emotional life; she desires to make choices and has a sense of self-recognition. But like all nonhuman animals, Happy is considered a thing in the eye of the law, with no fundamental rights. Due to a series of groundbreaking legal cases, however, this is beginning to change – and Happy's liberation is at the forefront. A vibrant and personal graphic novel, Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood traces this moving story and makes the legal and scientific case for animal personhood.
Led by lawyer Steven M. Wise and aided by some of the world's most respected animal behavior and cognition scientists, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed cases on behalf of nonhuman animals like Happy since 2013. Through this work, they have forced courts to consider the evidence of their clients' cognitive abilities and their legal arguments for personhood, opening the door for similar cases worldwide. In Thing, comic artists Sam Machado and Cynthia Sousa Machado bring together Wise's groundbreaking work and their powerful illustrations in the first graphic nonfiction book about the animal personhood movement. Beginning with Happy's story and the central ideas behind animal rights, Thing then turns to the scientists that are revolutionizing our understanding of the minds of nonhuman animals such as great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. As we learn more about these creatures' inner lives and autonomy, the need for the greater protections provided by legal rights becomes ever more urgent.
With cases like Happy's growing in number and spanning from Argentina to India, nations around the world are beginning to recognize the rights of animals. Combining legal and social history, innovative science, and illustrated storytelling, Thing presents a visionary new way of relating to the nonhuman world.
Part One. Manifest Injustice
Chapter 1: The Great Chain of Unbeing
Chapter 2: An Odious Thing
Chapter 3: Habeas Corpus
Part Two. Unrebutted Scientific Evidence
Chapter 4: Autonomy & Self-Awareness
Chapter 5: Nonhumanism
Chapter 6: Confinement
Chapter 7: The Long Night
Part Three. The End of the Beginning
Chapter 8: More Than a Thing
Chapter 9: Beyond Personhood
Cynthia Sousa Machado and Sam Machado are the-husband-and-wife team behind the cartoons I Got This and If I Don't Get Pants. Their work together involves identity, politics and social justice issues. Their editorial cartoons have been found in the Guardian, The New Republic and Redbook. You can find their webcomic Cyberbunk on LINE Webtoon. Cynthia and Sam live and illustrate in Miami, FL.
Steven M. Wise is founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project. He has practised animal protection law for 30 years throughout the US 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. Wise has taught Animal Rights Law at Harvard, Stanford, and seven other law schools. He holds a J.D. from BU Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary.
"Bold, powerful drawings explain the concept of animal personhood through the story of an elephant who has spent nearly five decades at the Bronx Zoo."
– The New York Times
"Essential graphic account of the fight for certain animals to achieve legal 'personhood' [...] thought-provoking and inspiringly hopeful manifesto."
– Publishers Weekly, starred
"This exquisitely illustrated graphic novel uses the story of Happy, an elephant living in isolation at the Bronx Zoo, as a lens to explore why nonhuman animals deserve the same legal and ethical rights as Homo sapiens [...] a must-read that combines science, legal history and compassion – and may just change a few minds."
– The Revelator
"Presented in a graphic novel illustrated storytelling format and style, Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood is a fun, informative, educative, and thought-provoking read that will be of particular and special interest those with concerns regarding Animal Rights, Animal Behavior/Communications."
– Midwest Book Review
"Acknowledging the personhood of nonhuman animals would go a long way toward strengthening the protection they receive under existing laws, and would hopefully lead to improved laws. These changes are long overdue. Thing dives deep into this fight, enlightening readers while providing an impassioned call to action on behalf of nonhuman animals."
– Laurence Tribe, University Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus, Harvard University
"In the tradition of groundbreaking works like March and Logicomix, Thing is a nonfiction graphic novel that informs, educates, and entertains all at once. Through pithy captions and expressive illustrations, Thing leads the reader to the inevitable conclusion that 'a chimpanzee [or an elephant] may or may not be a person. But it is more than a thing.' This is an important book for our times, told by a talented creative team."
– Josh Neufeld, writer and artist of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
"In Thing, Sam Machado and Cynthia Sousa Machado manage to convey both information and emotion through their beautifully designed and drawn pages. Perhaps the most important aspect of their work is how Cynthia deftly portrays the underlying 'humanity' of the animals discussed through her evocative art. Like many important graphic novels of the past, Thing has the power to make an incredible impact with its readers."
– Brian Cronin, Senior Writer, CBR (Comic Book Resources)
"Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood follows the battle to move Happy, a fifty-year-old Asian elephant, from the Bronx Zoo to sanctuary [...] I hope that this groundbreaking graphic novel will bring others to see, as I have, that we cannot continue to treat autonomous beings as if they exist for our education or entertainment."
– From the foreword by Joyce Poole, Co-Founder and Scientific Director of ElephantVoices