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The Courts Science

Chimpanzee "Personhood" Lawsuits Fail In New York Courts 370

Posted by timothy
from the politicians-still-considered-people dept.
sciencehabit writes "Three lawsuits filed last week that attempted to achieve 'legal personhood' for four chimpanzees living in New York have been struck down. The suits, brought by the animal rights group the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), targeted two chimps on private property and two in a research lab at Stony Brook University in New York. NhRP says it will now appeal each lawsuit to a higher court, and that it will continue its campaign to grant chimpanzees, dolphins, and other cognitively advanced animals legal personhood nationwide."
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Chimpanzee "Personhood" Lawsuits Fail In New York Courts

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  • by alen (225700) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:29AM (#45670077)

    ok, so they free all the smart animals. what next?
    send them back to the wild to fight for food and die fast?

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:41AM (#45670173)
    The basis for their case is saying that African-Americans are no better than chimpanzees and since African-Americans have rights, chimpanzees should as well. Oh, they dress it up differently and try to make it sound like that is not what they are claiming, but that is what the case law they cited amounts to.
  • intelligence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by magic maverick (2615475) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:43AM (#45670193) Homepage Journal

    Considering that chimps are as intelligent (at least) as two and three year olds, I think they should be given the same sort of rights. The right not to be tortured, and mistreated for one.

    Oh but they are beasts and awful, and rape and stuff. Yeah, humans are horrible aren't they.

    Humans aren't special. Get over yourselves.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:52AM (#45670295)

    It's about people trying to force their extreme beliefs on others. If they were seriously interested in the humane treatment of animals, they would be pushing for tighter restrictions on mistreatment and better living conditions of corporate farm animals. At least put the court tax dollars to some better use than trying to push your "religion" on people.

  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:00AM (#45670369) Journal
    Human society is not ready to grant intelligent animals sentient or human status. It sounds like an enlightened idea, but our laws and societal norms cannot accommodate granting these rights without significant and fundamental change.

    Take any law that governs the interaction between two humans and apply that to a human verses say a dolphin and you immediately run into serious and unworkable situations. Imagine having to grant a dolphin the right to confront their accuser in a court of law. Really? What about applying laws concerning manslaughter or murder or accidental death? What about representation in government?

    Yes, I know the New York case was not about all of these things, but once the door is open you can never close it. Just look at the legal ruling that corporations are legal persons to understand what I mean.
  • by coldsalmon (946941) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:02AM (#45670397)

    The want chimpanzees released from "illegal detention," but if we treated them like people, they would end up in prison very quickly. I would give them two days before they were guilty of trespass, theft, assault, and battery. They would be ruled incompetent to stand trial, and probably placed in a psychiatric prison in solitary confinement. That is what we do with people who act like chimpanzees.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:22AM (#45670605) Homepage

    I would give them two days before they were guilty of trespass, theft, assault, and battery.

    Heck, they'd probably be done in for indecent exposure in a matter of hours.

    This is animal rights groups being really stupid. Smart animal rights groups focus on things like protecting endangered wild animals, putting a stop to puppy mills, rescuing pets, and ensuring humane treatment of captive animals, because those are what most people are comfortable supporting.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:29AM (#45670695)

    Actually, the pedophilia would work. If chimps are deemed persons, then in the US, they would be required to abide by the laws of this country. In the US, the age of consent would still apply and since laws regarding pedophilia are age based, even if chimps are sexually mature, they would still be guilty of it. If you enact legislation permitting it for chimps, then you open up equal protection suits for human pedophiles as the two classes of person would be treated different under the law.

    More likely what would happen if chimps were granted personhood would be that they are deemed incapable of caring for themselves in society and have to be institutionalized, just as they are now. I'm sure the group pushing for this would want them to be returned to the wild, however, as persons, here, but not there, they have no citizenship abroad for us to deport them. In addition, any of them born here, as persons, would be US citizens and could not be deported.

    In the end, the court did the right thing. Animals, no matter how intelligent are not persons under the constitution. The appellate process will find the same thing.

  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:56AM (#45671009)

    How about these nitwits find some better ways to improve the human condition before they go off to tilt at windmills. I am all for the prevention of cruelty to animals, but this has just gone over the top into nutcake land. I don't want anything to do with PETA anymore because of the looney positions they started taking in the past few years.

    The whole lot of them, just look silly and make it a lot harder for reasonable actions to be taken.

  • Re:intelligence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:23PM (#45671273) Homepage Journal

    The difference is on average humans have the ability to plan, use tools, and effectively modify our environment.

    It's almost certain you can't separate chimps from humans this way. Chimps not only use tools, they *learn* to use certain things as tools and the knowledge spreads between chimpanzee groups through individuals -- in other words they have a rudimentary technological culture.

    Chimpanzee groups engage in warfare to annex territory, and it's not just a case of encountering other groups and spontaneous fights breaking out. They *invade* the territory of other groups. Surely that shows rudimentary planning. Within a group there is politics. The dominant male is not necessarily the strongest; a clever male can defeat a strong one by forming alliances.

    Psychological experiments support the notion that chimps have a consciousness of self. Chimps have been taught American Sign Language, and appear to use all the cognitive features of language. Objections have been raised that this is just operant conditioning, but the same objections would apply to human use of language.

    A hundred years ago, the idea that chimps might be persons from the point of view of ethics would be ridiculous. They were just animals in the forest. But a century of research has seriously undermined nearly every substantive distinction between humans and chimps. At this point the verifiable differences between chimps and humans aren't ones of *kind*, but of *degree*. Chimps use tools, but simpler ones than humans do. Chimps can use human language, even learn it spontaneously, but their vocabulary is in the hundreds of words, not thousands for a fluent human speaker.

    If there is a defensible *ethical* distinction between the status of chimps and the status of humans, that distinction ought to arise out of clear-cut differences between humans and apes. At present there are only two clear-cut distinctions between humans and chimps. The first is genetics; chimps are close, but past attempts to create human/chimp hybrid have failed. Second, humans *rely* upon our advanced behavioral capabilities to survive. Tools are useful to chimps, but *essential* for us. Yet it is hard for me to see how we get from "chimps can get along without tools" to "it is immoral to experiment on chimps." One doesn't follow from the other.

    If the answer is "well, they just aren't *human*," that has implications which are nearly as counter-intuitive as the notion that chimps have some of the same rights as humans. Most people would assume that if we ever met an alien, non-human civilization made up of self-conscious individuals, that hunting those individuals for pleasure would be morally wrong, and perhaps legally impermissible because while not human, they are "natural persons" with at least some of the basic rights of humans. Furthermore, if genetic tribalism is the ethical basis of law, why not favor Europeans over Africans, or vice versa?

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:24PM (#45671277)

    very true. in fact, there was a great nova special a few years ago (pbs tv) that contrasted the huge diff between bonobos and chimps. day and night diff. peace vs war.

    I think I want to be a bonobo when I grow up ;)

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:31PM (#45671335)

    In the end, the court did the right thing. Animals, no matter how intelligent are not persons under the constitution.

    Why is it then that intelligent animals don't deserve personhood, but corporations do? A sentient intelligent creature is not a person, but a legal entity is? That's pretty inconsistent.

    That's a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is obvious: money and corruption.

  • by rssrss (686344) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:50PM (#45672911)

    Your "rhetorical" answer to your question only reveals that you do not understand the law.

    First we must remember that the rubric "corporation", includes not only Microsoft and Wal-Mart, but also universities, hospitals, churches, municipalities, and clubs. The first corporation to assert constitutional rights in the US Supreme Court was not a business. It was Dartmouth College. ("It is a small college, but there are those that love it." - Daniel Webster).

    Corporations are associations of natural persons (i.e. individual human beings), who themselves have full legal capacity and who themselves bear "rights". The associates include the directors and officers of the corporation.

    Granting them corporate personhood allows them to own property and enter into contracts in their roles in the association. The Latin word for a role is "persona".

    Doing this allows the property and contracts to inhere in the association so that if an individual dies or retires from his role, the property and contracts automatically transfer to the next individual who holds that role. If we did not do this, the property and contracts of the association would have to go through probate if one of the associates were to die, or be deeded for every resignation, or even worse, be subject to litigation.

    The underlying social logic of this type of legal structure has been laid out by Nobel Prize winning economist Douglass North. In his view the open availability of institutional structures like the corporation is one of the hallmarks of advanced societies like the US. The lack of these structures defines base state societies like Afghanistan, Syria, and Sudan. See "Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History" by North, Wallis, & Weingast [amazon.com].

    IAAL. As Chief Justice Coke explained to King James I, (see "Prohibitions del Roy") [libertyfund.org], issues concerning the life, liberty, and property of citizens, are not decided by the King's natural reason, but by the artificial reason and judgment of Law, which is mastered only by long study and labor. But, the Law is the golden measure that protects everyone, governor and governed alike, in safety and peace.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

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