Unlocking the Cage (2016) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Between 2013 and 2015, a group of nonprofit attorneys seek nonhuman clients for whom they can advocate in two U.S. territories, in order to establish legal personhood for elephants, cetaceans and nonhuman apes in the U.S.

  • 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.

  • Following the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) attorneys as they visit animal sanctuaries and humans who privately hold apes in captivity. NhRP argues that elephants, apes and cetaceans have human-like capacities that warrant similar legal status as a five-year old human being in the USA. The legal precedents don't exist in the US, but Sikh holy books in India, a river in New Zealand, and other non-human entities have received person-hood status elsewhere. For many years in the US, corporations and some legal partnerships have received the status of person-hood, but no general rules exist for fetuses and non-human animals. The NhRP team led by Steven M. Wise try to change that during the course of two years tracked in this motion picture.


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