Rights Group Is Seeking Status of ‘Legal Person’ for Captive Chimpanzee


NY Times:

Rights Group Is Seeking Status of ‘Legal Person’ for Captive Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees are not people, no matter how they are dressed up for commercials, but perhaps they are close enough that they deserve some of the same rights humans have. That is what an animal rights group claimed on Monday when it filed a classic writ of habeas corpus, that revered staple of American and English law and tired cliché of detective fiction — not for a human being held unlawfully, but for Tommy, a chimpanzee in Gloversville, N.Y.
This is no stunt. The Nonhuman Rights Project has been working on this legal strategy for years, sifting through decisions in all 50 states to find one that is strong on what is called common law, and one that recognizes animals as legal persons for the purpose of being the beneficiary of a trust.

The leader of the project, Steven M. Wise, who has written about the history of habeas corpus writs in the fight against human slavery and who views the crusade for animal rights as a lifelong project, said New York fit the bill. His legal action added a milestone to a year that has already been remarkable for chimpanzees, with one federal agency taking steps to retire most chimps owned by the government and another proposing to classify all chimps as endangered, an action that would throw up new obstacles to experiments even on privately owned chimps.

Activists have relished their successes, while some scientists have deplored restrictions on the use of the animals, which have played a crucial role in some biomedical research, such as work on hepatitis C vaccines.
Until now, all the actions have addressed the issue of animal welfare, not animal rights. But Mr. Wise filed papers on Monday in State Supreme Court in Fulton County, N.Y., demanding that courts in New York recognize Tommy as a legal person, with a right to liberty, but one that has its limits.
Tommy, the group says, “is being held captive in a cage in a shed at a used-trailer lot.”
The petition does not ask the court to set Tommy free to roam Gloversville, or to send him back to Africa after a life in captivity. It asks the court to remove him from his owners and place him in a sanctuary.

Reminds me of Robert Heinlein’s story Jerry Was a Man thought that was about a chimp genetically modified to be more human-like.

As for “animal rights” – ain’t no such thing.


Who says there’s no such thing? Do you think that we should be able to do whatever we please with an animal? The animals don’t belong to us, we are allowed to use them, not abuse them.

Also to be nitpicky, we are animals and we have rights so therefore animal rights exist.


Well, that’s just silly. Now corporations… :rolleyes:


While I am an animal lover and maybe we should not cage a chimpanzee in a tiny box like this, or carry out pointless experiments on them, I’m wary of the courts defining what rights animals have exactly. I don’t want to be charged with murder when I order a bucket at KFC.:smiley:


I think you’re confusing legal rights with legal protections. Animals are property under the law. Property doesn’t have rights. And that is not likely to change anytime soon.

I am all for giving animals reasonable protections. But, they are not people. To expect them to comprehend our government and legal system and follow our laws is cruelty.


Does anyone else hear the theme song to ‘Mister Ed’ as they read through this?


Soon there will be people lining up to marry chimpanzees who enjoy “human rights” and they will be demanding our acceptance of this practice as something perfectly normal and acceptable in society.

It is also extremely sad that some of the most strident animal-rights supporters are also card-carrying members of the Culture of Death. To think that a human fetus has less right to live than beef cattle, or to propose that humans contracept ourselves out of existence, or that the Earth is overrun by humans harming the environment, is truly a tragedy of ironic proportions.


So… bestiality is only a page away in this wild chapter of Western decadence.

That’s what it seems like. Hey, if they’re people-they can consent.



This isn’t that crazy. Legal personhood is really just a way to assign rights. Everyone knows corporations are considered legal persons.

I’m not saying all animals should have the same rights that people do, or that even all animals as a category deserve to be treated similarly. But giving significant status to high-functioning, intelligent animals (like higher primates) isn’t too far fetched.

After all, we most all agree that laws banning cruelty to dogs and other pets makes sense. The idea of protecting animals statutorily to a certain degree is sane - constitutionally protecting some animals might also be sane.

I’m just saying it’s silly to be instantly closed-minded to this idea. It might not have much merit, but it might have some.


Why can’t they just file animal abuse and neglect charges then instead of legal personhood. If they believe he isn’t being cared for properly then that’s one thing but to say that he should have some of the rights that we as humans have is absurd. He is a monkey. This will just lead to beastiality and monkeys and other animals having even more rights than the unborn. (On many levels, they already do.)


Well, to answer your first question: in the United States (and I’m pretty sure in most countries), you can’t file charges against anyone. Only the government can. So they literally cannot “just file animal abuse and neglect charges.” Of course, prosecutors could, but I think these cases are kind of the bottom of the barrel for most DAs.

Second, they could theoretically file a civil suit based on some tort theory, but I don’t know how that would look. But granted, this is something of a possibility. The biggest hurdle would be getting standing in front of a court. That means, showing the court that the plaintiff filing the case (e.g., PETA) has suffered some injury at the hands of the defendant (e.g., the people keeping the animal). If PETA can’t convince the court that the harm to the animal is also a harm to PETA (and I’d be skeptical of any argument saying so), then the suit would be thrown out.

As to your other points: sure. Maybe we should just have laws that give animals broader protections. I don’t really know. From a practical standpoint, that’d probably be the better choice. But the idea of granting some animals some status as legal persons isn’t necessarily a bad idea, either.


But what would the point be? What would be the point of an animal being a legal “person”?

I’m sorry I don’t know a lot about the court system but I’m pretty sure people get charged with animal abuse ALL the time. I’ve seen it in my own town and on tv etc. If the animal units see the abuse or have evidence they can do something about it.


Well, that’s a good question, regarding, “what’s the point?” I think statutory protections (i.e., just passing a law) might be better. With a statute, which is generally passed by a legislature, you get what you get: the statute itself delineates and describes the protection you get.

For example, if a statute said, “It shall be a crime punishable by up to 364 days in jail to intentionally harm a dog,” that’s all the protections dogs would get. Dogs who are harmed unintentionally would not be protected; cats that are harmed intentionally would not be protected.

But if you have a “right,” or something…haha, I’m not even sure exactly how it would work. Maybe we would extend 5th and 14th Amendment protections to some animals. Well, in that case and unlike the case of a statute, we would probably look to the courts to help flush out what exactly animals get with that right.

So, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about this issue. My only point is that it wouldn’t be THAT crazy. It would be a LITTLE crazy, but not a LOT crazy.

And yeah, people are probably prosecuted for animal abuse with some regularity. You’re right about that. But the crimes carry small penalties and usually aren’t enforced with as much rigor as more traditional crimes.


I see your point in trying to get better protections for animals, I just think there are less dangerous ways to go about it.

Giving a human label of any kind to animals opens up Pandora’s box on what will be legal to do with an animal and what kind of rights an animal could have.


I predict this will lead to another call by the left to redefine marriage and that they will use the same argument they used for so-called same-sex “marriage”.


Crazy has no limits.


That monkey is probably mad he can’t get rights with all the tax dollars he pays.


Do fetuses or children pay taxes? What about the homeless?

Do they deserve rights?


Perhaps they are basing it on how he voted in the last presidential election.


George Orwell is looking more prophetic all the time: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – Animal Farm

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