by John M. Simpson
Animal rights activists have pointed to a recent decision by the highest court in Ecuador — the Constitutional Court (Corte Constitucional Del Ecuador) — as a breakthrough for animal rights. As the NonHuman Rights Project (NHRP) described it, the decision “constitutes one of the most important advances in the field of animal rights and environmental law in recent years. . . . The Court’s groundbreaking ruling advances the constitutional protection of animals — ranging from the level of species to the individual animal — with their own inherent value and needs.”
Upon closer examination, the Court’s Final Judgment is not as far-reaching as has been claimed.
The case involved a female chorongo monkey named “Estrellita.” The chorongo monkey is endangered under Ecuadorian law and is listed in Appendix II of CITES as a species that could become endangered unless trade is strictly controlled. Estrellita evidently was taken from the wild at the age of one month, was domesticated and lived with her human owner, a librarian, for 18 years. Apparently based on a neighbor’s tip that the owner had possession of a wild animal without a license, local authorities seized the animal and transferred it to an “ecozoo” where it died about 3 weeks later. A necropsy indicated cardiorespiratory arrest as the cause of death and noted nutritional deficiencies, exposure to unfavorable environmental conditions,