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The Courts Science

Lawsuits Seek To Turn Chimpanzees Into Legal Persons 641

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wann-be-like-you-hoo-hoo dept.
sciencehabit writes "This morning, an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a lawsuit in a New York court in an attempt to get a judge to declare that chimpanzees are legal persons and should be freed from captivity. The suit is the first of three to be filed in three New York counties this week. They target two research chimps at Stony Brook University and two chimps on private property, and are the opening salvo in a coordinated effort to grant 'legal personhood' to a variety of animals across the United States. If NhRP is successful in New York, it would upend millennia of law defining animals as property and could set off a 'chain reaction' that could bleed over to other jurisdictions, says Richard Cupp, a law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and a prominent critic of animal rights. 'But if they lose it could be a giant step backward for the movement. They're playing with fire.'"
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Lawsuits Seek To Turn Chimpanzees Into Legal Persons

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  • Jerry Was A Man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:46PM (#45578319) Homepage Journal

    (Full text) [willmorgan.org]

    Heinlein saw this coming in 1947.

  • The Vote (Score:4, Interesting)

    by invid (163714) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:47PM (#45578333) Homepage
    Does this mean they will be able to vote?
  • Not black and white (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:06PM (#45578607)

    Nope. Chimps aren't human, and don't deserve civil rights. Especially not Second Amendment rights. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhxqIITtTtU [youtube.com] )

    But seriously, that doesn't mean we're free to treat 'em badly. We tend to draw a black-and-white distinction between persons and nonpersons. If it's a nonperson, we can do whatever we want with it, torture, butchery, it's all good. But it's not that simple. Living things exist on a spectrum of intelligence and "person-ness", from bacteria to plants to fish to cats to chimpanzees (and from fertilized egg to full-term fetus, if you want to go there). Our morality needs to reflect that.

    So no, chimps don't get rights. But they should get the respect they're due as almost-persons.

  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:07PM (#45578615) Homepage

    Corporations are run by and owned by people, not by machines. They are treated as legal persons for very good reasons that go back hundreds of years for certain purpose. The Citizen United case was about speech, which the First Amendment allows regardless of the source. (Seriously, read the 1st Amendment. It just says "speech.") People also have freedom of association rights and their individual rights don't go away when they form groups.

    Do you think the New York Times or Slashdot can get censored because the freedom of the press doesn't apply to them because they are owned by corporations?

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:13PM (#45578689) Homepage Journal

    Other primates, even chimpanzees and gorillas, cannot give informed consent, so marrying them would never be justifiable for the same reason marrying a four-year-old is not reasonable. We need a whole lot more evolution and/or alien contact and/or resurrection of neaderthals and/or robots before there's anything non-human to meaningfully get freaky with.

    As for limits on personhood (re worms), there are a number of animal rights movements, all with slightly different agendas. I'm sure there are probably some who go so far as to include worms, but the science doesn't really favour it since many worms (such as the laboratory scientist's favourite, Caenorhabditis elegans) are dumber than a Roomba.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:31PM (#45578903) Homepage

    > Corporations are run by and owned by people, not by machines. They are treated as legal persons

    _...because it benefits corporations and corporations have lots of money and with that money comes power. This is a condition that predates our nation (USA).

    A corporation is not a person. It is is a MOB constructed to shield that mob from the legal consequences of their actions.

    As an entity with limited legal responsibilites, it should also have similarly limited rights.

    It's kind of like a child or a chimp in this respect.

  • Re:food (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zalbik (308903) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:02PM (#45579207)

    I'm sorry but there's no difference between livestock (chicken, cows, horses, etc...) and experiment sujects (mice, chimps, dogs, etc...)

    I agree. Free them all. There's no reason for an advanced, "civilized" human society to treat living, sentient* creatures as products to consume.

    I disagree. Eat them all.

    Wolves eat deer. Lions eat zebras. Homo sapiens eats everything.

    Why would we hold ourselves to an objectively different standard than every other carnivore/omnivore on the planet?

  • by ultranova (717540) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:09PM (#45579289)

    Other primates, even chimpanzees and gorillas, cannot give informed consent, so marrying them would never be justifiable for the same reason marrying a four-year-old is not reasonable.

    However, animals are not, in fact, infants, so it's not like there's anything in particular that would need justifying. After all, the default is that you can do anything you like as long as other people have no legitimate reason to stop you, and the main disagreements come over what counts as a legitimate reason.

    That the rest of society needs to entertain the tought, even hypothethically, with whether or not to formally recognize a relationship between (wo)man and monkey does highlight why giving marriage a legal status is probably not a good idea. It's ultimately a religious ritual and should be left outside the scope of secular society.

    We need a whole lot more evolution and/or alien contact and/or resurrection of neaderthals and/or robots before there's anything non-human to meaningfully get freaky with.

    Have some faith in humanity [tulpa.info], or at least it's hormones :). Why wait for aliens when you can use applied psychology to make your own?

    I swear, if someone found a way to sexualize Tokamaks we'd have fusion power in a year...

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:15PM (#45579347)

    Corporations can't vote because the managers know that one more vote isn't going to make much difference. They still provide the most important function: When a corporation breaks the law, they may face a fine. Only rarely does the manager who ordered the illegal action face any personal consequence. The most they have to fear is a stock price fall. Thus they ask the obvious question: Will the corporation make more money from this action than the expected fine when we get caught?

  • Re:food (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Subm (79417) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:50PM (#45579677)

    I'm sorry but there's no difference between livestock (chicken, cows, horses, etc...) and experiment sujects (mice, chimps, dogs, etc...)

    Yes, none of them is a legal person. Monsanto, however, is.

    Figure that out and what it means about the values of our legal system.

    Most posts so far are comparing chimpanzees to other animals, like humans and rats, ignoring that we've already given person status to entities that have no physical body, let alone a brain.

  • by chihowa (366380) * on Monday December 02, 2013 @08:42PM (#45580009)

    Thirdly, Corporations at one time were PROHIBITED from owning another corporations; again to PREVENT consolidation of power.

    If corporations keep pressing forward toward legal personhood, I wonder if you could make a 13th amendment argument against them owning other corporations...

  • by N1AK (864906) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:36AM (#45581983) Homepage

    But why should we try to make a law about chimpanzees screwing out in the bush?

    A very good question. The issue is that this article is about an attempt to define these chimps as 'legal persons' to grant them the protections and rights that brings. What I wonder is, has enough thought gone into handling the responsibilities and obligations that come with being a 'legal person' such as being subject to the law? Rape, murder, theft etc are all common within the animal kingdom and no less so the more cognitively advanced members such as Apes and Dolphins.

    I have no issue with people pushing for greater rights for animals. I strongly agree with the idea of defining the distress we cause animals so that we can weigh up the pros and cons. Defining Apes as persons is a dumb way to try and short-cut this process.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

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