Elephants Have Equal Value to Humans, India Court Rules

Elephants were raised to the same status as humans by the Rajasthan High Court Wednesday, in a ruling on compensation for the death of a working elephant killed in an accident in 1988.

Granting the elephant's owner £6,850 in compensation, the court treated the animal as a "living creature equivalent to a human being," DNA India reported yesterday.

Saddique Khan depended on the 35-year-old elephant, Babli, to support his family, providing tourists with scenic rides through the city as a professional mahout. A speeding vehicle struck and killed his elephant in 1988.

The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal initially awarded a compensation of £3,300 (290,000 rupees), plus 12% interest, in August 1993.When the New India Insurance Company refused to treat the animal as anything but normal livestock, with a payout of no more than 2,000 rupees, Saddique took his plea for greater compensation to the high court.

Mr. Khan's lawyer, argued that the elephant should be considered of equal value to a human because she responded to commands, performed elaborate tricks and was the main financial provider for the family, the Times reported.

The decision by the Indian court reflects a growing impetus world-wide to blur the distinctions between humans and animals, reflecting a secular interpretation of the nature of humanity. The Spanish government put forward legislation in April 2006 giving great apes many of the same rights as humans, including the rights to life, freedom and freedom from torture, according to a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

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