Date: January 12th, 2012

Last night's (Wednesday January 11) episode of the NBC David Kelley drama, Harry's Law, was extraordinary. It argued against captivity of great apes for human entertainment, discussed the possibility of granting legal personhood for great apes, and introduced millions of Americans to the word and concept of speciesism. The following trailer for the episode gives you the gist:
In it we hear the question as to whether a gorilla is capable of being "owned." And we hear about "a qualitative shift in the way we view the animal world, especially when it comes to apes."

Not all of the episode is to our liking. It begins with Harry (played by Kathy Bates) and her colleague hunting ducks. Harry says, later in the episode, that she doesn't want to lose the right to keep hunting "lousy ducks." But the episode explores the question of non human animals as property and does so with the intelligence and eloquence that we have come to expect from David Kelly. The question is asked more than answered -- though with regard to great apes the show's opinion becomes clear by the touching final scene. While we, as animal rights activists, would love to see a mainstream show come out strongly against all use of animals as property (for food, clothing or entertainment) we must be aware at this stage of the game that simply seeing the issue explored seriously on a primetime drama is a big step in the right direction.

Unfortunately the episode is not available "On Demand" or on the NBC website. After much searching I found it on line at I share the following URL for the episode with the warning that I know nothing about this site, including whether or not it has the right to share this episode and whether it is safe to watch it here. I took the risk:

The episode will surely replay and I ask anybody who sees the gorilla episode advertised as coming up to please let me know so that I can let everybody know.

When I first heard about the episode I was worried that a captive gorilla "actor" had been used in an argument for legal rights for apes. As I watched the episode, however, the sensitivity to the issue was so apparent that I knew the ape could not be real. Indeed, when I called "The Sign Language Company" who are cited on imdb as having been involved with the sign language supervision I was assured that there was no use of a live gorilla actor. Apparently, as with the wonderful "Planet of the Apes," we are watching human actors and CGI technology. We've come a long way!

Positive feedback for coverage of animal issues encourages more of it, so please thank the show's producers. You can, of course, add any thoughts you are moved to add but please focus on positive feedback as this primetime serious discussion of legal personhood is a great step forward for the animals. While the discussion focused on apes I think we all know that the "slippery slope" noted at the trial is wonderfully real.
NBC takes feedback at
Choose "Harry's Law" from the pull-down menu.

I thank Larry Miller and Jackie Raven for making sure we knew about the show.

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts only if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)

Please go to to check out Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which in 2008 was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of The Year!"

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Date: Thu Jan 12 17:58:02 2012

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