Main | Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Lawsuit: Chimps Are People

A New York-based animal rights group has filed a lawsuit demanding "legal personhood" for chimpanzees being kept as pets or in research labs.
The lawsuit demands a writ of habeas corpus — essentially a document granting freedom — on behalf of Tommy the chimp so he can be moved to an animal sanctuary that's more like his natural habitat than his current cage. NhRP is filing two other suits this week seeking freedom for three more New York chimps. The NhRP says it's basing the three suits on a 1772 case involving an American slave named James Somerset. After Somerset's owner took him from Virginia to England, a group of abolitionist lawyers filed a petition to have him freed. Of course, chimps aren't human beings. But the NhRP makes a pretty strong argument that they're more people than things, and that they're entitled to "legal personhood." The suit points out that humans and chimps share 99% of their DNA. They can use tools, grieve, and speak in sign language. Like people, the NhRP's legal documents point out, chimps have.
More from USA Today:
The lawsuit accuses Patrick and Diane Lavery of holding Tommy, a 26-year-old chimp, captive. The Laverys are "detaining Tommy in solitary confinement in a small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed" at their property, the lawsuit says. Chimpanzees can make choices and, like humans, have an interest in freedom to live as they wish, Wise says. "It would seem exceedingly unlikely that any chimpanzee would choose to live life in a cave." The Nonhuman Rights Project intends to file two additional lawsuits to free two male chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, allegedly owned by New Iberia Research Center and used in locomotion research by the anatomy department at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., and Kiko, a 26-year-old chimpanzee living on private property in Niagara Falls, Wise says.

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