Oook, Oook — Chimps Lose in Appellate Court

We’ve written twice before about a case in New York claiming legal rights for chimpanzees. See “Personhood” for Chimps? Oook, Oook! and then Personhood for Chimps Update — 11 Dec 2013. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

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.

The chimps lost at the trial court level, causing your Curmudgeon to declare: “America calls itself the land of the free. But it’s really a sapiens-only club. No justice, no peace!” (Yes, it was sarcasm.) Then the chimps’ advocates filed an appeal.

It’s been a long wait for the results, but we just found this at the PhysOrg website: Chimps not entitled to rights of people: NY court. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Chimpanzees are not entitled to the same rights as people, a New York state appeals court ruled Thursday, thwarting an advocacy group’s attempt to get primates freed from captivity.

The PhysOrg article doesn’t provide a link to the court’s opinion (nor do several other news articles on the subject), so your Curmudgeon went on a search. The Appellate Division has four departments, and we found it in the Third: OPINION AND ORDER — it’s a seven-page pdf file. Okay, back to PhysOrg:

The group argued in court in October that chimps have such similar characteristics to humans that they should be recognized as “legal persons” and given the right to liberty.

But a panel of appeal judges in the state capital Albany on Thursday declined to enlarge the common-law definition of “person.” “A chimpanzee is not a ‘person’ entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus,” the judges wrote.

The court’s opinion isn’t very long, so you can easily read the whole thing. Your Curmudgeon won’t get carried away, as some animal rights groups may do, and make a crazy analogy to the Dred Scott decision. Chimps aren’t human, and we agree that they don’t have rights. However, they’re intelligent, they’re related to us, they don’t bother anybody, and they shouldn’t be abused. The court recognized this when it said:

Our rejection of a rights paradigm for animals does not, however, leave them defenseless. The Legislature has extended significant protections to animals, subject to criminal penalties, such as prohibiting the torture or unjustifiable killing of animals, the abandonment of animals in a public place, the transportation of animals in cruel or inhuman manners or by railroad without periodically allowing them out for rest and sustenance, and the impounding of animals and then failing to provide them sustenance. … Thus, while petitioner has failed to establish that common-law relief in the nature of habeas corpus is appropriate here, it is fully able to importune the Legislature to extend further legal protections to chimpanzees. [References omitted.]

We like that — “protections” for chimps, but not rights. A most sensible decision.

We haven’t seen any reaction from the creationists yet, but that’s sure to come — in praise of this decision. There are at least two reasons for our expectations, and they’re not based on political theory: First, as in the days of human slavery, creationists are often of the opinion that we’re not related to them. But we are; they’re our closest non-human relatives. Second, if we drive the great apes to extinction, it would make their insane belief system more credible (to them), because we wouldn’t be so obviously related to another living species. So we’ll be watching.

See also: Discoveroids Oppose Frivolous Lawsuits.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Oook, Oook — Chimps Lose in Appellate Court

  1. Our rejection of a rights paradigm for animals does not, however, leave them defenseless. The Legislature has extended significant protections to animals, subject to criminal penalties, such as prohibiting the torture or unjustifiable killing of animals, the abandonment of animals in a public place, the transportation of animals in cruel or inhuman manners or by railroad without periodically allowing them out for rest and sustenance, and the impounding of animals and then failing to provide them sustenance.

    Although much of this seems not to apply to the meat industry.

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    So what would the creationists say about legal rights if another Hominid species was found alive hidden somewhere in the world? Do they get human rights, or animal rights?

  3. Those judges are not being forthright. They offer a wall of barely scrutable verbiage in purported support of their ruling when in fact what they’re really doing is heading off a slippery slope at the pass. They are well aware that had they ruled in favour of the chimps, they’d soon have to afford sponges and bacteria similar protections of personhood.

    (I’m not saying their decision was a bad one, only that the reasons they offer are designed to obscure the eventuality that had they ruled in the chimps’ favour, they would have opened the door to yet another knotty and ultimately wasteful delineation problem. Still, the Discorrhoids and other professional evolution deniers are bound to make a meal of the Court’s implicit strict qualifying criteria for “person” and hence “human”. They are bound to trumpet this as a Solomon-like affirmation of H. sapiens sapiens’s very special status in Ol’ Grandy’s arrangement of things.)

  4. Obviously, the chimp needs to incorporate, so it can be a corporate person.

  5. Q;”’

  6. What do chimps have in common with black people?

    You can kill them in New York.

  7. Obviously, the chimp needs to incorporate, so it can be a corporate person.

    Actually, I think that is one of several tactics lawyers sometimes use to set up wills in such a way that many widows have left their estates to their cats. Of course, a direct designation of “I leave the remainder of my estate to my beloved Fluffy and FiFi” will not hold up in most courts because cats aren’t people. But there are various corporate and trust solutions which accomplish the same kind of result.

  8. So what would the creationists say about legal rights if another Hominid species was found alive hidden somewhere in the world?

    Initially, they would try to play the same games they played in the past: “Homo nethanderalis” was simply an old man with arthritis/rickets/tumor/whatever. (Kirk Cameron apparently thinks only one specimen was found.)

    My guess is that they would treat such a find similar to Homo floresiensis and just say that they are simply another aboriginal tribe: fully human and no different from the many other varieties of human beings. If they clearly look quite different from Homo sapiens sapiens, I think they will say that some “birth defect” got entrenched in the small population and inbreeding led to universality. Of course, when genomic comparisons demolish their claims, they will obsess on “Genome mapping is very new and there is so much about the human genome that we don’t yet know. And only arrogant, godless evolutionists committed to the worldwide secular conspiracy to obliterate all mention of God and the Bible will presume to know more than our Creator.”

    However, the Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind wings of the YEC world (aka the extra crispy wingnuts) will look for any excuse (e.g., large size or strength) to link them to one of the “mystery hominid groups” in the Bible, such as the Nephilim. Indeed, even if they aren’t particularly large or strong, they will still find that angle as worthy of a few books which should be profitable among their constituencies. After all, they will say that the inevitable “devolution” that impacts all living things gradually reduced the size of the Nephilim. (To those who may object by saying that the Nephilim were before the flood and therefore wiped out, we also see them mentioned in scripture post-flood, perhaps even in relating them to David’s Mighty Men. )

    They may even say that the new tribe/species of hominids are hybrids of human and angel minglings by saying, “If such human-angel hybrids existed before the flood, why not after?”

    Those are my guesses. I’d like to hear what others predict. It’s a very interesting question.

  9. God, the slippery slope argument is tired. Give it a rest.

  10. You can’t give chimps human rights because they can’t take anger management courses.

  11. [If] we drive the great apes to extinction, it would make [creationists’]insane belief system more credible (to them), because we wouldn’t be so obviously related to another living species. So we’ll be watching.</blockquote]
    Creationists have a positive incentive to see to it that the great apes, and perhaps even the monkeys, disappear. And if that happened, it might not be long before the Bible-bangers started claiming that these creatures had never existed in the first place but had been mythological.

  12. Mark Germano

    @Eric Lipps, but then they couldn’t use the “why are there still monkeys” canard.

  13. “I hate when WordPress anonymizes my comments.”
    – Anonymous

  14. Prof T> “However, the Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind wings of the YEC world (aka the extra crispy wingnuts) will look for any excuse …”

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAAA!

    Thank you for that tasty little characterization. I’m going to get me a whole plateful, and some ranch dip. 🙂

  15. Here’s a thought experiment: A humanzee is successfully bred from a human and chimp parents. Does this humanzee have the rights of citizenship and other human rights by virtue of having a human parent? Does the human parent have to be the mother? What if the hybrid is able to speak and reason?

  16. @Anonymous
    The ability to speak and reason has nothing to do with having human rights.