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The Courts Science

Lawsuits Seek To Turn Chimpanzees Into Legal Persons 641

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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  • food (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:48PM (#45578341) Journal
    I'm sorry but there's no difference between livestock (chicken, cows, horses, etc...) and experiment sujects (mice, chimps, dogs, etc...)
  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:48PM (#45578347)

    Chimps are no more legal persons than corporations are. Oh wait...

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:50PM (#45578381) Journal

    ...if such a thing passes, am I the only one who sees a potential push for marriage laws to be adapted similarly?

    Before you freak out totally, I'm not necessarily referring to anything involving humans in the mix, but think of such things as racehorse/purebred animal breeding and etc.

    Could become one hell of a can of worms... (oh, wait, that brings up another thought - are worms eventually getting rights too?)

  • Only temporary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Travis Mansbridge ( 830557 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:52PM (#45578407)
    If freed, chimpanzees would be unable to follow basic laws and would likely need to be locked up in imprisonment anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:54PM (#45578435)

    Where exactly do they plan on releasing these chimps at? NYC? These animals likely cannot be returned to the wild and would likely face certain death in the wilderness, or the urban jungle for that matter....

  • Re:Only temporary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:55PM (#45578443)
    Perhaps but it would open up all other kinds of questions about things like the buying and selling of the animal (slavery), using the animals in entertainment settings or medical testing without concent.

    This isn't as simple as it seems on the surface.
  • A bigger risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by naoursla ( 99850 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @05:57PM (#45578471) Homepage Journal

    This decision will also be used precedence by the machines to decide how humans should be treated post-singularity. Choose wisely.

  • Re:Only temporary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:08PM (#45578637)

    Perhaps but it would open up all other kinds of questions about things like the buying and selling of the animal (slavery), using the animals in entertainment settings or medical testing without concent.

    Laws prohibiting cruelty to animals should be sufficient to prevent any problems for the situations you mention.

    Rights have no meaning without responsibilities; animal rights are a contradiction in terms.

  • Re:food (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:15PM (#45578721)

    so does that mean that when a mountain lion kills a deer then it should be tried for murder?

    Sorry, we're predators, as much as you may want to deny it's true. For every argument you throw that we're not supposed to eat meat, I can throw an equally valid one on why we're not supposed to eat plant matter. And to thrown in the mix, you know the game "fat or pregnant"? I've got another version that's surprisingly difficult, it's called "terminal cancer patient or vegan". Vegans really are a sickly looking bunch.

  • Easy Plan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:17PM (#45578751) Homepage

    Step 1: declare chimps person and demand they be released
    Step 2: arrest now-homeless person-chimps for trespassing
    Step 3: make incarcerated person-chimps do whatever they were doing before as prison labor

  • Re:food (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rary ( 566291 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:17PM (#45578757)

    Because it's unnecessary.

    If survival's at stake, I'll do what I gotta do. But if the sole reason for killing another living creature is "mmm, tasty", then something's wrong. My definition of "civilized" would include "not killing for pleasure".

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:17PM (#45578761)

    As humans, I believe we have a responsibility to treat creatures with a humane stewardship but this lawsuit is pushing an agenda other than humane stewardship. This is the exact kind of thing which makes people roll their eyes every time a vegetarian speaks up about the living conditions of feed-lot beef, or the destruction of bottom trawling and bycatch.

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:18PM (#45578769)

    There is no justification for a separate status for one type of hominid over another within the context of Naturalism.

    That's wrong. Chimps, for example, are a different species; chimps and humans can't have offspring. Their brains are obviously quite different. They are also vicious and aggressive animals.

    It will be interesting to see how the courts address this from a secular standpoint, since the rationale for "rights" is grounded in a wholly theistic construct, at least in the U.S.

    US laws are based on Enlightenment philosophy, not religion. As such, they are a mix of social contract, classical liberalism, and human rights. Enlightenment philosophers generally recognized that animals could suffer and that humans had some moral responsibility towards them, but did not generally recognize them as persons. []

  • Re:food (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:28PM (#45578873) Homepage Journal

    *For bob's sake, please look up the word before replying with the standard Slashdot anti-animal-sentience nerd rage.

    Per Wikipedia:

    Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or to experience subjectivity.

    Studies have shown that even plants are capable of communication, [] and in some instances have been shown to cry out when cut, as if in pain.

    So, by the Wikipedia definition, plants are sentient beings as well; do you have the same protective spirit over, say, your lawn, as you're showing for the more 'breathy, bleedy' forms of sentient life?

    Personally, I don't care what other think; certain animals and plants are quite tasty, and I'm going to continue killing and devouring them to my heart's content. Don't like it? Then don't accept my invite to chow. Otherwise, mind your own fucking business, please and thanks.

  • Re:Jerry Was A Man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eggplant62 ( 120514 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:32PM (#45578917)

    Hey, corporations are people. Extending that to chimps isn't too far a stretch.

  • Re:food (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:39PM (#45578995) Homepage

    > humans can live with without eating meat.

    They also tend to do poorly at it since we aren't actual herbivores.

    You are not a cow, no matter how much you want to be one.

  • Re:The Vote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:48PM (#45579069)

    Yes, but sadly their votes would only be counted as 3/5 of a human citizen's :(

    Corrected for historical accuracy.

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @06:48PM (#45579073) Journal
    Corporations aren't people. You can realize this when you think that a corporation is not allowed the right to vote. Corporate personhood is just a legal shorthand for talking about the collective rights of the individuals that make up the corporation.

    The concept has been perverted by activists who hear the word 'personhood' and think they understand what it means without even bothering to read wikipedia. These are the people of which Churchill said, "the best argument against democracy is a 2 minute conversation with the typical voter." They can't think to educate themselves, they'd prefer to be outraged.
  • Won't fly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:15PM (#45579337) Homepage Journal

    There is a much better argument that a fetus is a person and deserves protection under the law but the anti-abortion types haven't managed to get that idea recognized by the courts or enacted as law through the ballot box. I don't agree with their argument or what the anti-abortion types are trying to do by making it but I can still see some validity to their argument. Given that the courts have considered whether a fetus is a person from the moment of conception and said "no", I don't see the courts granting "personhood" to chimpanzees.

    O/T: This does give rise to an amusing situation. The folks who push "personhood" for a fetus would probably vehemently oppose granting the same designation to a chimpanzee (fundamentalists see man as on a whole different level than other animals). Likewise, the people pushing personhood for chimps would be some of the more liberal types and would probably be very "pro-choice".


  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:16PM (#45579357)

    I view PETA as a core of crazy surrounded by well-intentioned and reasonable animal lovers who just don't realise how batshit insane the leaders are.

  • Re:food (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:24PM (#45579437)

    Actually, experiment subjects are treated with much more care, respect and regulation, when compared to most livestock.

  • Re:food (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:39PM (#45579577)

    All of nutritional science disagrees with you.

  • Re:Only temporary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:45PM (#45579635)
    Yes, and then the likelihood of them going extinct would increase exponentially. Chimpanzees compete with humans for the resources they need to survive. Any creature which competes with humans for the resources it need to survive that does not have economic value to humans WILL go extinct (unless humans go extinct first). This is not a statement of "the way things should be". It is a statement of the way things are. It would be nice if it was not true, but that does not change the fact that it is true. This lawsuit is attempting to make eliminate the economic value to humans of chimpanzees.
  • Re:The Vote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:53AM (#45582017) Homepage
    Firstly you don't need studies, we're talking about actual government spending that will be available in budgets and accounts; it doesn't require a study. Secondly, who gives a fuck why they receive more in federal money than they pay into the federal government other than fanboys trying to find an excuse for why it isn't blatantly hypocritical for them to claim democrats are leeching all the money.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.