Wise, Steven M. 1952(?)-

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WISE, Steven M. 1952(?)-


Born c. 1952, in MD; married Debra Slater (a lawyer); children: Roma, Siena, Christopher (twins). Education: Boston University. J.D., 1976.


Home—Needham, MA. Office—Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, 896 Beacon Street, Suite 303, Boston, MA 02215.


Lawyer, educator, and activist. Wise & Slater Wise, P.C., Boston, MA, partner; Harvard University, lecturer on law; Vermont Law School, adjunct professor of law, 1990—; John Marshall Law School, adjunct professor, 1999—. Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Boston, MA, founder and president; Animal Legal Defense Fund, Petaluma, CA, former president.


Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, foreword by Jane Goodall, Perseus Books (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, Perseus Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 2002.


Steven Wise, an animal rights lawyer, is one of the foremost advocates for animal rights in the United States today. Although he began his legal career as a personal injury lawyer, Wise was inspired to use his legal knowledge to protect nonhuman animals after reading Princeton ethicist Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation. The founder of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Wise has written two books, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals and Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, which argue that certain animals meet the legal criteria for personhood and should be granted the same rights as protections as children.

According to Wise, a creature must meet three criteria to be considered a person under the law: it must be able to desire things, to act in an intentional manner to get the things it desires, and to have a sense of self. In Rattling the Cage, Wise's first book, he shows how chimpanzees and bonobos, which are the animals most similar to humans, meet these criteria; in Drawing the Line he extends the same reasoning to elephants, parrots, dolphins, orangutans, and gorillas. In Rattling the Cage, Wise also recounts how African Americans and women were once considered things rather than people under the law and how changing opinions about their mental capacities led to their being granted full legal rights. However, Wise generally refrains from using those examples to make moral arguments for granting animals rights. "What I'm trying to do is make rational arguments backed up by scientific facts, because scientific facts are persuasive to the lay person and to judges," he told Robin Dougherty of the Boston Globe.

This does not mean that Wise's stories do not carry an emotional impact. In both books he tells touching stories of animals who were cruelly abused in the name of science. He also conducts an incredible interview with Koko, the gorilla famous for her command of American Sign Language, for Drawing the Line. Through these anecdotes "Wise strengthens his case and intrigues the reader," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of the book.

Although not all reviewers endorsed Wise's controversial conclusions, many found that he did an excellent job of making his case. As Brady R. Johnson noted in his review of Rattling the Cage for January Magazine, instead of "resort[ing] to arcane legal arguments and jargon" like many legal writers, Wise "speaks plain English and uses common sense as he presents his case carefully and methodically." Jeffrey Masson sounded a similar note in his review for the Observer, noting that Wise's intelligent explanations were like "having a super-smart guide on an intellectual journey, who speaks ordinary language but draws your attention to things you would never see without him."



Animal Rights Agenda, July-August, 2002, "A New Order in the Court" (interview with Wise), pp. 42-43.

Animals, March, 2000, Lisa Capone, "Wise Counsel for Animals" (profile of Wise), p. 30.

Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly, winter, 2001, review of Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals.

Boston Globe, May 26, 2002, Robin Dougherty, "The Line That Divides Human from Animal" (interview with Wise).

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, August 13, 1999, Martha Neil, "Animal Rights Professor Is Very Pro Bonobo," p. 3.

Choice, October, 2001, F. H. Wu, review of Rattling the Cage, p. 382.

Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 11, 2002, "Activist Says Some Animals Deserve Legal Rights."

Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2000, Elizabeth Mehren, "Lawyer, Harvard Instructor Is Witness for the Defense of Animals," p. A16.

Nature, August 17, 2000, review of Rattling the Cage, pp. 675-676.

New Scientist, September 7, 2002, Roy Herbert, review of Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, p. 54.

New York Times Book Review, February 20, 2000, Cass R. Sunstein, review of Rattling the Cage.

Observer (London, England), June 11, 2000, Jeffrey Masson, review of Rattling the Cage, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, May 20, 2002, review of Drawing the Line, p. 59.

Student Lawyer, December, 1998, Ambuja Rosen, "All Clients Great and Small: How Strong Are Your Animal Instincts? Take a Lesson from Four Leading Animal-Rights Lawyers," pp. 28-33.

Time, March 13, 2000, "Standing Up for Rover: A Harvard Lawyer Is a Champion of Humane—Not Just Human—Rights," p. 6.

Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2002, "The Law of the Jungle," p. A18.

Washington Post, June 5, 2002, "Beastly Behavior? A Law Professor Says It's Time to Extend Basic Rights to the Animal Kingdom," pp. C1-C2.


Animal News Center,http://www.anc.org/ (December 6, 2002), Jill Schensul, interview with Steven Wise.

Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights,http://www.cefr.org/ (December 11, 2002).

January Magazine,http://www.janmag.com/ (September 9, 2002), review of Rattling the Cage.

Literati,http://www.literati.net/ (December 6, 2002), author profile.

Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (September 3, 2002), Kurt Kleiner, review of Drawing the Line.

Vegan,http://www.vegan.com/ (December 6, 2002), Erik Marcus, interview with Steven Wise.*