This has been in the news lately, so we thought we’d mention it. At PhysOrg they report: Group seeks ‘personhood’ for 4 chimps in US. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
An animal rights group is asking New York courts to recognize scientific evidence of emotional and cognitive abilities in chimpanzees and to grant the animals “legal personhood” so that they are ensured better treatment.
Nonhuman Rights Project, a nonprofit founded in 2007 by Massachusetts lawyer Steven Wise, filed a second lawsuit Tuesday and plans to file a third Thursday that asks the courts to declare that the chimps are not things to be possessed and caged by people and should be released from “illegal detention.”
Our cousins are being kept in bondage! Is deliverance at hand? We’re told:
The group is seeking an order, on behalf of four chimps, for their release to a sanctuary that is a member of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, to live out their lives with other primates in a natural outdoor setting. “In this case, we are claiming that chimpanzees are autonomous,” Wise said. “That is, being able to self-determine, be self-aware, and be able to choose how to live their own lives.”
First, self-determination. Then, suffrage! We live in exciting times, dear reader.
Here’s a link to the outfit that’s filing the suit: The Nonhuman Rights Project. They say they’re seeking a writ of habeas corpus for the chimps. This is the complaint they filed. It’s 17 pages long, but it’s a scan, so we can’t easily cut and paste. The plaintiff is The Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. on behalf of Tommy. As you probably guessed, Tommy is a chimp.
Along with the complaint is a 91-page Memorandum of Law. This post at the website of The Nonhuman Rights Project has links to an ark-load of other documents they’ve filed: Legal Documents re. Tommy, Kiko, Hercules and Leo.
We haven’t read any of that stuff. Let’s get back to PhysOrg:
Wise said he doesn’t expect the decisions to be favorable because the judges have no legal precedent to rely on. But he said he would file appeals. “These are the first in a long series of suits that will chip away at the legal thinghood of such non-human animals as chimpanzees,” he said.
We don’t know when we’ve been more thrilled. Here’s one last excerpt, and then you’re on your own:
The lawsuits include affidavits from scientists who say chimpanzees have complex cognitive abilities, such as awareness of the past and the ability to make choices, and display complex emotions such as empathy. “Once we prove that chimpanzees are autonomous, that should be sufficient for them to gain legal personhood and at least have their fundamental interests protected by human rights,” Wise said.
If the lawsuits succeed, similar ones could eventually be filed on behalf of other species considered autonomous, such as gorillas, orangutans, whales, dolphins and elephants, Wise said.
We haven’t seen any reaction from creationists yet, but that’s sure to come. We’ll be watching.
Afterthought: There didn’t seem to be a place for this post in any of our various tables of contents. It’s not science, it’s not religion, so it’s listed in the “Politics” section.
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