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Should chimps be considered legal persons ?

Posted on Wednesday, 4 December, 2013 | Comment icon 45 comments

Is locking up a chimp the equivalent of slavery ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Thomas Lersch
The Nonhuman Rights Project has been battling to grant some species of animals 'legal personhood'.
For years, animal rights groups have campaigned to have chimpanzees and other species such as dolphins freed from a life of captivity on the basis that keeping any intelligent species confined or locked up is tantamount to slavery.

"Its a terrible torture we inflict on them, and it has to stop," said animal rights attorney and Nonhuman Rights Project founder Steven Wise. "And all of human law says the way things stop is when courts and legislatures recognize that the being imprisoned is a legal person."

The case being put forward therefore, is that chimps and other animals should be reclassified as non-human persons so that the same laws on slavery and imprisonment that apply to humans can also be applied to them. It's a long shot, but if it succeeds then it could revolutionize the way in which some animals are treated.

"Gorillas, orangutans, elephants, whales, dolphins - any animal that has these sorts of cognitive capabilities, we would be comfortable bringing suit on behalf of," said Wise. "No matter how these first cases turn out, were going to move onto other cases, other states, other species of animals. Were going to file as many lawsuits as we can over the next 10 or 20 years."

Source: Science Mag | Comments (45)

Tags: Chimpanzee

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #36 Posted by DieChecker on 6 December, 2013, 8:58
I agree that Whales, dolphins, porpoises, Elephants, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutangs, Gibbons, and perhaps a few more obviously sentient and conscious species should have all have "special person" status and be free from torture, enslavement, and captivity. Wouldn't "special animal" work just as well. Given the same rights were outlined. Seems to me this is about rights, not about being a "person".
Comment icon #37 Posted by DieChecker on 6 December, 2013, 9:00
How are you going to get a chimp to pay tax? Lock 'em up till he pays, or someone pays for him. If they are property, then the owner should pay, just like with old time slavery.
Comment icon #38 Posted by Hares on 6 December, 2013, 13:26
I agree that Whales, dolphins, porpoises, Elephants, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutangs, Gibbons, and perhaps a few more obviously sentient and conscious species should have all have "special person" status and be free from torture, enslavement, and captivity. Although I'm 1000% in favour of protecting all those animals mentioned - what about other species? For ex Pigs are said to be mentally at par with 3 yr old humans - would this special person status be given to them too?
Comment icon #39 Posted by Sundew on 6 December, 2013, 13:47
All life should have our respect, no matter which species. Kindness doesn't cost anything. Does that include mosquitos and roaches? 'Cause I kill the little buggers on sight. Of course we should be kind to animals, but giving animals legal status might open up a whole Pandora's box of unintended consequences. Call me cynical, but I have a feeling it will be lawyers, not animals, that will reap the benefits before it's all said and done. Don't we already have laws against animal cruelty? And regulations regarding the keeping of exotic pets? If these regulations are deemed insufficient, then upd... [More]
Comment icon #40 Posted by lightly on 6 December, 2013, 13:50
The law firm representing NonHuman Rights Project in the lawsuits . Chimp Chimp & Chimp
Comment icon #41 Posted by Liquid Gardens on 7 December, 2013, 1:32
Hah, no im not saying that at all. I'm saying that gay marriage isn't gonna really seem like that big a deal once monkey marriage is on the table. True enough, I get what you're saying. also, making fun of the "reeeeeeal" thing? rude Ha, okay, I'll keep that in mind. Doesn't seem like it's rude when I specifically said "if so"; since that's not what you meant then I'm obviously then not referring to you. I don't know how familiar you are with anti-gay marriage 'arguments', but a popular one is that if we allow people of the same gender to marry then what grounds do we have to say that someone ... [More]
Comment icon #42 Posted by Liquid Gardens on 7 December, 2013, 1:34
Just to clarify I was only making a joke about monkey marriage. No that's my bad, I misunderstood you.
Comment icon #43 Posted by Kelevra on 7 December, 2013, 1:39
All good then, glad we could come to am amicable place from the misunderstanding.
Comment icon #44 Posted by ZaraKitty on 13 December, 2013, 14:31
Broad topic, today I watched The Cove (documentary) and it was amazing, I also watched Black Fish. Both about the way we abuse marine animals even though there is evidence they're sentient beings, like us. I think we should grant the freedom to avoidance of pain, food, shelter and love to everything but that's just the communist/hippy in me.
Comment icon #45 Posted by cathya on 16 December, 2013, 18:32
Why not? There's one in the white house...

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