Chimps not entitled to rights of people: NY court

The Nonhuman Rights Project said it was pursuing an appeal at New York state's highest court in a bid to move four privately-own
The Nonhuman Rights Project said it was pursuing an appeal at New York state's highest court in a bid to move four privately-owned chimpanzees to a sanctuary

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 Nonhuman Rights Project said it was already pursuing an appeal at New York state's highest court in a bid to move four privately-owned to a sanctuary.

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.

"Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions," they continued.

"It is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the ... that have been afforded to human beings."

The Nonhuman Rights Project says it is the first time anyone has ever sought a writ of habeas corpus applied to an animal.

"The court ignores the fact that the common law is supposed to change in light of new scientific discoveries, changing experiences and changing ideas of what is right or wrong," it said.

The case hinges on the group's effort to have a chimpanzee called Tommy removed to a sanctuary to live out the remainder of his days.

The charity says Tommy is being held captive in solitary confinement in a "small, dank, cement cage in a dark shed in temperatures" well below those of his native land in Africa.

"He is unable to do the things that are natural to chimpanzees. He cannot build a nest, socialize with others of his own kind, or forage for food," the charity says on its website.

Last year, his owner Patrick Lavery told local newspaper Times Union that the chimp "likes being by himself" and has a television set, cable and a stereo for entertainment.

The group also wants freedom for three other chimps—Kiko, deaf and living in a private home, and Hercules and Leo, owned by a research center and used in locomotion experiments on Long Island.

A hearing was held in Kiko's case before a court in Rochester, New York on Tuesday.

The Nonhuman Rights Project says Kiko is partially or totally deaf because of abuse suffered on the set of a "Tarzan" movie before being acquired by his current owners.


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Dec 04, 2014
Some good news for once. Of course, a animal shouldn't have the same rights as a human being!

Dec 04, 2014
They can't be trusted with their turds, prolly a good idea that they don't have the right to bear arms

Dec 04, 2014
It is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights... that have been afforded to human beings.

That is also true for young children. If the courts consistently apply that criterion, quite a lot of humans are legally not persons. Even if the definition is extended to say that a person is someone who can be expected to bear legal responsibilities and social duties some day, then humans with advanced dementia are not legally persons. They are no longer competent to bear legal responsibilities, and their capacities are decreasing, not increasing. Sounds like a very poorly thought out decision to me.

Dec 04, 2014
"Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions,"

There are plenty of people that fall short of that definition of a person for reasons beyond their control.

Also, the 4 other apes in general are perfectly able to function in human society when they are brought up in it. I think the fact that you can talk to them and they understand you and any emotion you may be conveying you lends credence to their humanity. They also get PTSD when treated like this and go crazy.

Dec 04, 2014
There are plenty of people that fall short of that definition of a person for reasons beyond their control.

Now let's understand the difference here: just because chimps (and apes in general) don't have
"human rights" doesn't mean they should be treated in an inhumane way. Cruelty has nothing to do with a species "rights", it has everything to do with the individuals facilitating said cruelty.

Dec 05, 2014
Are chimps persons? This way of thinking requires distinguishing the conceptual category of "Persons" from Homo Sapiens and thinking about what may be essential to what we mean by a person apart from having a particular body or being a member of a particular species.

Here's an example:

A Person is an individual whose history is, paradigmatically, a history of Deliberate Action in a Dramaturgical Pattern. Deliberate Action is a form of behavior in which a person (a) engages in an Intentional or Goal Directed Action, (b) is Cognizant of that, and (c) has Chosen to do that. A person is not always engaged in a deliberate action but has the ability to do so.


Dec 05, 2014
What a shame. And the first 2 comments...

Dec 05, 2014
That this verdict is a surprise to anyone is amazing? Few people would be crazy enough to even consider for a moment that any animal should have the same rights as people.

The verdict does not say that cruelty, including some of the examples of animal testing, are acceptable, it just acknowledges that chimps are not humans. The rights of people are reserved for humans.

I would love to see the owner of Tommy, the chimp described in the story, being put in the same conditions for the rest of his or her life. There are plenty of humans that do not deserve the right to membership of the human species. That would be a more sensible legal argument than trying to give rights to animals.

Dec 06, 2014
It is a self evident truth that no two humans are equal. I am not even my own equal. You should see me before my first cup of coffee.
Therefore all beings exist at various places on the sentient spectrum at various times. There is a lot of overlap between us and the chimps.
At out present state of philosophical development if we discovered intelligent life on another planet we would probably eat them.
We have to improve our relationship with the other sentient beings on this planet before we reach the stars- lest we become known as "The Monsters from Deep Space" and used scare the young.
How does it feel to be a Monster?

Dec 07, 2014
Chimps should incorporate, because corporations are people

Dec 07, 2014
There is no good definition of person under which chimps are not people but children or mentally retarded are. It is kinda arbitrary and not very consistent.

Dec 07, 2014
People = humans. Simple as that. Nothing to do with mental capacity, skills or self awareness.

History has shown that it is more likely that humans will be treated like animals than animals considered to be people. Consider slavery in several countries where a particular race was considered less than human. More recently, terrorist suspects tortured and terrorists slaughtering innocent people for fun. There are examples of genocides throughout history and this is still happening today. The poor are sometimes displaced or simply killed to make way for mines or other industries in developing countries.

Just look around the world at how people treat one another and you might appreciate that considering animals people is unlikely to greatly help their cause. The world has far more important issues to deal with anyway.

Dec 08, 2014
Would intelligent aliens not be entitled to the same basic rights as humans? Yes, they would.

Clearly whether some organism gets the same rights as humans has nothing to do with their species, but their atributes such as mental capacity.

I repeat, there is no good definition of person under which chimps are not people but children or mentally retarded are. It is completely arbitrary, and some time in the future we will hopefully move on from such specieistic definition towards a more consistent one. "All Sentient/Sapient beings have basic rights", as in Star Trek, or something like that.

Dec 08, 2014
True or false? Chimpanzees have the right to vote, protest and say ( shout ) the word "NO!" just like one shouted "NO!" in the planet of the apes?

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