Numerous chimpanzees lawsuits could turn them into legal persons. On Tuesday, an animal activist group, which is known as the Nonhuman Rights Project, filed the first of numerous suits in a New York Supreme Court on behalf of four chimpanzees. They want a judge to grant the animals the “right to bodily liberty” or to be considered legal persons.
Steven M Wise, who is the founder and president of the rights project, stated that they want the judges in the cases to actually recognize, for the first time, that the chimpanzees are autonomous, cognitively complex beings and they have the basic legal right not to be imprisoned. So he and the Nonhuman Rights Project want the animals to be declared as legal persons and freed out of captivity. This first suit is just one of three that will be opened in three different New York counties this upcoming week. They each are targeting two chimps that have been used for research and another two that are living on private property.
If such rulings were to pass, this could be the start of granting legal personhood to many different varieties of animals all over the United States. If NhRP was to end up being successful in New York, it would topple millennia of laws which define animals as people’s property. It might also set off a chain reaction which could drain over into various other jurisdictions.
The Nonhuman Rights Project says that all four chimpanzees are in the state of New York:
• Kiko, age 26, use to work in the entertainment industry. He is now on private property, where he is caged.
• Hercules and Leo are two young males which are owned by a research center.
• Tommy, age 26, lives inside a cage in a trailer park.
Neither owner of Tommy nor Kiko have responded for any comments or questions, Wise stated.
The research department had a spokesperson release a statement. She said that the center had not seen any legal papers related to the chimpanzees, so she was unable to comment on the matter.
Even if the chimpanzees do not know what the lawsuits are, they will benefit from being represented, and possibly being declared as having “legal personhood”.
Apparently Spain’s parliament decided to pass just such a resolution back in 2008, but it was centered on great apes. Their law deemed that those animals could be considered legal persons. Why did the country not do it for other animals?
Because lawsuits must address real problems which are is facing a specific plaintiff. That is why it is not allowed for anyone to sue on behalf of all animals which exist every place on the Earth.
These certain suits are asking for specific requests for the four chimpanzees. They want them to be moved to a sanctuary where they will be able to live out the rest of their days along with other chimpanzees in an environment that is as near to the wild that is possible in North America, explained the Nonhuman Rights Project.
The group also stated it plans to file even more lawsuits all across the United States on behalf of animals that are in captivity, which have been scientifically proven to have self-awareness such as dolphins, whales and elephants.
If these happen, those animals will have the chimpanzees and their lawsuits to thank for turning them all into legal persons in the eyes of the law.
By Kimberly Ruble