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.
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