Recently, a nonprofit group called the Nonhuman Rights Project (the “petitioners”) filed a lawsuit claiming the unlawful imprisonment (Habeus Corpus) of two apes—Hercules and Leo—which are research subjects at the State University of New York at Stony. The lawsuit sought to have the apes released and transferred to an animal sanctuary in Florida.
A state supreme court judge in Manhattan denied the request, despite evidence provided by the petitioners that attempted to prove the apes’ “human-ness,” including claims that the apes are self-aware and autonomous and possess intelligence, language skills, and personalities.
The presiding judge issued a thirty-three-page decision in which she characterized persons as having rights, duties, and obligations, whereas “things,” which is how animals are characterized under the law, do not.
This is not the first time such an issue has been raised. In 2014, the same Nonhuman Rights Project reperesented Tommy, an adult chimp in Albany. A five-judge panel of the appellate division of the state supreme court found that apes’ lackadaisical approach to civic life meant they didn’t deserve many of the rights afforded to people. The presiding judge wrote, “In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights” such as habeas corpus.
It appears Tommy is well cared for, with toys in his cage, outdoor access, and cable TV. Not a bad life for an ape.
The petitioners’ impetus for these types of lawsuits comes, in their own words, from “change[s] in light of new scientific discoveries, changing experiences and changing ideas of what is right or wrong.” In other words, since chimps have DNA that is similar to that of a human’s, they should also share the perks.
This movement shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially in our society that consistently denies the truths of Genesis 1:27 and Jeremiah 1:5:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.”
What’s next? Maybe the Nonhuman Rights Project will seek to gain the right to vote for animals.