I’ve had a favorite quote by Margaret Mead for awhile now: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” But, last week I feel that I truly saw it in action for the first time.
In an effort to get out and support more causes I care about, I decided to attend an event hosted by the Nonhuman Rights Project. They were speaking in court, fighting for elephant rights here in Connecticut.
I’ll be honest, this event just popped up in my Facebook feed so I wasn’t very educated about the issue, but I’ve since learned that there is an elephant named Minnie, who is the sole surviving elephant in a traveling circus based in our state. For any of you who know elephants or the treatment of animals in circuses, this is a sad affair. Just the fact that she’s alone is enough to break my heart. (Her elephant friends Beulah and Karen passed last year).
So, I was drawn to helping Minnie and all that was involved was showing up to demonstrate support. I could do that! Little did I know that I was going to meet such an incredible group of people. It’s amazing how we can gain so much from giving back…
The oral arguments themselves weren’t all that exciting because it was hard to hear from the back of the room. (I will also confess that I was a few minutes late, which for those of you who know me will not come as a surprise, lol). But, I made an appearance to show my support for Minnie to be able live out the rest of her life in an elephant sanctuary instead of being exploited by the circus.
Afterwards, there was a group of people who gathered on the front steps of the courthouse and that’s where the magic happened. The lawyer started to really speak now, digging into the details on the case and comparing it to other cases he’s won in the past for other animals. This was my first introduction to the Nonhuman Rights Project. They are the “only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, public policy advocacy, and education to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.” (Source.) And their president, Steven M. Wise, was the lawyer arguing Minnie’s case. There was way too much to summarize here, but let me assure you that he made a strong argument. (He’s in the middle of the photo below with the sunglasses on.)
And I was a bit in awe. Here’s a man who dedicates his time to fighting for the legal rights of animals. I started to experience some hero worship right at the start. How amazing to combine his profession with his passion to save animals! Despite the rather chilly weather (noses were running all around), I could have stayed there all day just listening to him talk. Of course he needed to get back to the office to work more towards Minnie’s defense, but I certainly appreciated him taking the time to explain the details to our small group on the courthouse steps.
Also in that small group were other folks who inspired me just as much:
First, there were some people from a group called Desmond’s Army who are animal law advocates. They “seek to raise public awareness regarding laws as they relate to animals and the statistical connection between animal abuse and domestic violence (and other acts of violence).” (Source.) They were so welcoming to me, a random stranger joining in on the conversation.
And last, but certainly not least, I have to mention meeting David Michel, a State Representative from the other side of Connecticut. His passion for animal welfare spanned from Minnie’s rights all the way to the creatures in the ocean who would be affected by off-shore wind turbines if they aren’t built correctly. (That’s a drastic simplification of the argument, but you get the idea, right?) What was most fascinating about listening to Representative Michel was getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at all of the animal-related legislature that supporters like him are trying to get passed. There are an encouraging number of proposals, but there are limited openings for them to get heard by the court. It’s a real struggle from the sounds of it, but he’s fighting for all that he can.
I know this might not have sounded like the most exciting adventure in getting out to support great causes, but looks can certainly be deceiving. My heart was full and my mind was blown as I stood on the windy court steps and watched this small group of dedicated people as they shared all of their efforts to change the world. And the good news is that they are making progress. And inspiring others to do the same. I can’t put into words how fortunate I feel for having been able to meet them. They have so much more work to do, but they are thoughtful and they are committed and, just like Margaret Mead said, that’s all you need.
#FreeMinnie #AnimalRights #GivingBack #WhatsYourCause?