Film Screenings Unlocking The Cage


1023 Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School

A screening of Unlocking The Cage, a film by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker, which follows legal personhood lawsuits for chimpanzees, filed by animal rights lawyer Steven Wise.

Event Overview

Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his career-long challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After 30 years of struggling with existing animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), recently filed the first ever lawsuits seeking to transform an animal from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with legal protections.

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.

Steve Wise was the first instructor to teach Animal Law at Harvard Law School in 2000.  At the time HLS was only the ninth law school ever to do so.  Now, sixteen years later over 160 U.S. law schools have offered courses on the subject.

Join us for an in-depth conversation with NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider and Professor Kristen Stilt after the film screening.

The event, co-Sponsored by the Harvard Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF), is open to the public. A free plant-based dinner will be provided.