Personhood for Chimps Update — 11 Dec 2013

We’ve been deluged with inquiries about the subject we reported in “Personhood” for Chimps? Oook, Oook! The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

The The Nonhuman Rights Project had sued in New York courts, seeking recognition of scientific evidence of emotional and cognitive abilities in chimpanzees, in order to grant them “legal personhood” to ensure better treatment. They were seeking a writ of habeas corpus for chimps.

This is the complaint they filed. It’s 17 pages long, but it’s a scan, so we can’t cut and paste. 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.

Today we have more news from PhysOrg, and it’s not good for our cousins: Chimp lawsuit falters in US courts. They say, with some bold font added by us:

Three US judges have rejected lawsuits demanding that chimpanzees be recognized as people with fundamental rights, an animal charity said Tuesday.

Oh no! Our cousins remain in bondage! How could the courts have done such a thing? We’re told:

[A]ll three judges threw out the applications on the grounds that habeas corpus does not apply to an animal. The charity says it will appeal the case. “The struggle to attain the personhood of such an extraordinarily cognitively complex nonhuman animal as a chimpanzee has barely begun,” said its president, Steven Wise.

The battle has just begun! Let’s read on:

Judge Joseph Sise of Fulton County Court said he would entertain a separate lawsuit seeking to right any wrongs to Tommy but could not consider him a person. “The court will not entertain the application, will not recognize a chimpanzee as a human or as a person who can seek a writ of habeas corpus,” he was quoted as saying by the charity. Two other judges threw out the petition on the same grounds.

Your Curmudgeon is dismayed. Here’s some information about the suffering the chimps have endured:

It said the day it [The Nonhuman Rights Project] visited Tommy, the temperature in his shed was about 40 degrees below what it would be in his native land. “The only company he had was a TV that was left on for him at the other side of the shed,” the organization said.

His “native land.” How he must yearn to be returned! One more excerpt:

As for Kiko, the group said he is partially or totally deaf because of abuse suffered on the set of a Tarzan movie before being acquired by his current owners.

Abused on the set of a Tarzan movie! What could be more humiliating? This is where we’ll have to end this report. All our hopes are with the appeal process.

America calls itself the land of the free. But it’s really a sapiens-only club. No justice, no peace!

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Personhood for Chimps Update — 11 Dec 2013

  1. Personally, although I think the legal case is weak, there are probably more reasons to grant chimps “personhood” than corporations or embryos prior to brain formation, both of which have strong movements in the USA. At least chimps have a brain that functions similarly to our own, something the other two lack.

  2. Animals, and not only chimps, are treated abominably in too many instances in the United States. It is unconsciounable, it is inhumane, it should be a matter of zero tolerance.

    In a rational society, pursuing person status for chimps would illuminate the utter idiocy of conferring that same status on corporate entities.

    Not so for the 5 Fools on the USSC, though. They, like their corporatist comrades, know exactly what they are doing. They think it is a great thing they do, too, instead of total insanity. Somehow natural, even.

    Given the religious status of the Foolish 5, I expect opinions issued any day now asserting that businesses are ensouled upon initial legal registration of corporate and business entities.

  3. Richard Olson anonymously says: “In a rational society, pursuing person status for chimps would illuminate the utter idiocy of conferring that same status on corporate entities.”

    Corporations are a special case. They’ve always been regarded as artificial persons for certain limited purposes. They can own property, sue and be sued, etc. But they can’t vote or do the other things that natural persons can do. Any analogy of chimps and corporations just won’t work.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    SC says: “But they [corporations] can’t vote or do the other things that natural persons can do.”

    Specifically, they can’t now die from old age. Back in the early centuries of corporations, states required that a corporation existed only for a stated purpose and a fixed period of time, such as digging a canal. After the time expired, the accounts were settled up among the stock holders. And then a new corporation could be formed, but again only for a specified limited purpose and time.

    I say if corporations boast of immortality, we should tax them to death every now and then just on general principles of good government.

  5. Richard Olson

    I did not intend for my comment above to be anonymous. I post here frequently and always use my name when I do so. Just as I hit the button I noticed I’d forgotten to fill in the info windows. Alas, too late.

    I submit that corporate entities’ legal status in the USA changed dramatically, (most unfortunately for our citizenry in the aggregate, for small business in particular, and for individuals whose livelihood requires certain deplorable services e.g. Tobacco Institute, Heartland Institute, ALEC) from one that recognized contractual rights and obligations only, to one that acknowledges corporate personhood rights pursuant to the 14th Amendment. [the final paragraph below is from and concludes at wiki]

    The Pembina (see below) ruling cemented corporate 14th amendment access. The disastrous Citizens United ruling is unlikely to have been reached without it, and upon it may turn the outcome of the two cases the Court will rule on in the spring session regarding whether the religious convictions of corporate owners may be imposed upon each and every individual in their employ at the owner’s pleasure.

    From wiki — ‘Since at least Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward – 17 U.S. 518 (1819), the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to enforce contracts. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the reporter noted in the headnote to the opinion that the Chief Justice began oral argument by stating, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”[1] While the headnote is not part of the Court’s opinion and thus not precedent, two years later, in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania – 125 U.S. 181 (1888), the Court clearly affirmed the doctrine, holding, …”‘

  6. If corporations possess limited personhood, and enjoy certain rights appertaining thereto, I see no reason why a similar arrangement cannot be accomplished for chimps. It’s easy to make fun of some of the more naive statements by the animal rights groups, but the fact is that many of these animals have been abused. The first proposals for any major shift in the ethical attitudes of a culture are always ridiculed. It was the same for the emancipation of slaves, for female suffrage, for gay rights. I remember when people thought it was silly to have laws against littering, or drunk driving. Nobody used to give a thought to the cruelties of factory farming, but there is increasing interest now. Times do change.

  7. If corporations were MERELY persons, you could put them in prison when they commit fraud or steal or kill. But that kind of treatment is for poor people– as we saw in the financial meltdown, no corporation can be held criminally accountable for anything. Corporations have the rights of people without any responsibilities. They’re better than people, they’re super-people.

    That’s why we call them “job creators” even when they’re destroying jobs and shipping them overseas. Religious language. They’re deities.