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The Courts Science

Chimpanzee "Personhood" Lawsuits Fail In New York Courts 370

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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:33AM (#45670111)

      whats next? collect taxes from them!

    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:33AM (#45670115)

      I assume the chimps will be immediately subject to prosecution for bestiality, paedophilia (they apparently start giving birth around 13-14 years), and failure to file tax returns.

      Or if they're found to be incompetent to function in human society, they could become wards of the state, I suppose. Of course, then they'd need lots of prescription meds to control their behavior. Which, fortunately, have all been animal-tested.

      • In that same vein, I'll consider granting personhood to other species when they themselves can communicate and stand up for rights those species believe they are entitled to. Like a chimp or dolphin Frederick Douglass [].

        • How do you know they're not communicating and standing up for things like that? Maybe you just don't understand their communication any better than a wild chimp understands your speech.

      • Why bestiality? They're supposed to be persons, not animals. So sex with chimps would not be bestiality. Just make sure you're not doing it with an underaged chimp.

    • I don't have any point to make with what I'm about to say (seriously). But your point strangely reminds me of the debate about sending former American slaves back to the countries from which they or their ancestors were first taken.

    • as when they are a person they have the right to vote.

    • Give them jobs as librarians []? If an orang-utan can do it, why not a chimp?
      • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:48PM (#45672879)

        Orangutans are smarter. A zoo keeper once described the differences between the great apes. If you give a screwdriver to a gorilla, it jumps back in fear and will then tentatively take the screwdriver and try to eat it. A chimp will take it and try to use it for everything except unscrewing things. An Orangutan will take it, act stupid and hide it and when no-one is looking, use it to disassemble the cage.
        Actually they aren't that smart. One who had figured out how to open his cage using a piece of wire, some cardboard and brute strength was smart enough to hide his actions from the zoo keeper but didn't stop to think that the intern working by the door would tell on him.
        Google orangutan zoo escapes for examples.

    • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

      It makes no sense as the chimps have been in captivity. There is no possible way to reintegrate them back into existing, indigenous, wild African chimp societies. Its like forcing a family to adopt someone, it won't work.

      And what is their definition of freed from captivity? An animal is either wild or in captivity. So we do what, turn them loose into the streets? Maybe they can get a job at walmart as a greeter. A zoo is still captivity and chimps privately owned are still in captivity just like dogs and ho

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )
        Is this the same line of logic that claims blacks were better off as slaves than they are now as a free people?
      • The idea behind this is that chimps are extremely close relatives of ours, with many of the differences being of degree and not a lack of capacity. P. troglodytes, in particular, are tool users with at least some linguistic ability (far less than humans admittedly), form societies of fairly surprising complexity and size, and show at least some degree of sentience in general. I know this is a shades of gray kind of argument, but being that these are sentient creatures, at some point you have to ask yourself

    • Good. The court will come back with the inevitable conclusion they are not people, precedence will be set, and we won't have to see this stupidity again. And best of all, New Yorkers will pay for it all.
    • by asylumx ( 881307 )
      Weren't they free before they were held captive by humans? In which case, wouldn't they return to the same style of life they had prior to captivity? This doesn't sound very complicated.
      • Weren't they free before they were held captive by humans?

        No, many of them were bred in captivity {tfa didn't mention the origin of these chimps} and do not necessarily have the skills needed to survive in the jungles of FLORIDA?!?!?

        Anyway they would need to adapt since they have never foraged for food, been made to face weather, or fought off predators and would probably need to be looked after until they did adapt. Not completely uncomplicated but not unsurmountable either.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:31AM (#45670089)

    Was not available for comment

  • by blackbeak ( 1227080 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:40AM (#45670169)
    At least chimps can still comment on /.
    • by Minwee ( 522556 )
      And they still qualify to be Mayor of Toronto, or at least have a set on City Council.
  • 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.
    • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:40AM (#45670825)

      To bad you got modded down as a troll because actually you are more or less correct - they are comparing chimp captivity to slavery. From a summary about the case:

      n each case, NhRP is petitioning judges with a writ of habeas corpus, which allows a person being held captive to have a say in court. In a famous 1772 case, an English judge allowed such a writ for a black slave named James Somerset, tacitly acknowledging that he was a person—not a piece of property—and subsequently freed him. The case helped spark the eventual abolition of slavery in England and the United States. Wise is hoping for something similar for the captive chimps.

      The irony is that their proposed solution, if they win is to house the chimps in a preserve in Florida. The claim it would be like the Native American reservations. However, there people are free to come and go, but the chimps would not have that right, so effectively, they would still be captives. They would just have different masters/caretakers.

      I guess for the NhRP different classes of persons are entitled to different rights. Then again, that is pretty much what slave owners thought, too.

      • Bear in mind these are dependent beings....not unlike a child or elderly person. They both have rights as well, but we don't 'let them go in the wild'. (Queue jokes.. ;) We care for them, as they're unable to care for themselves.

        The point of the lawsuit is not as focused on current animals (all of whom are dependants), but more-so for future generations (free-living/wild chimpanzees). If granted personhood, they wouldn't be used in the first place, and animal sanctuaries would be needed less, and demand f
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:28PM (#45671987) Homepage Journal

      Exactly, which is why I posted a link to Heinlein's Jerry Was A Man [] in the first slashdot story about this. Heinlein, like these lawyers, was a racist (although in his defense, everyone was in 1947).

  • 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.

    • Considering that chimps are as intelligent (at least) as two and three year olds,.....

      Really? Maybe some really stupid 3 year olds.

    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      Humans aren't special. Get over yourselves.

      Don't see any chimps or dolphins wringing their hands/flippers over who has what rights. That seems to be a pretty special human trait.
    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      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.

      Most humans become civilised. Some however revert;.

  • 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.

    • At least put the court tax dollars to some better use than trying to push your "religion" on people.

      Religious would be to see the chimps as different from us (the current status quo).

      But in fact, that pile of atoms you're made of has no clear boundary. It's not like you, the pile of atoms, is a separate entity from the pile of atoms that makes up the chimp. So in fact, you and the chimp are one entity. You *are* the chimp. Don't you think it's time somebody stood up for your rights?

      • by Smauler ( 915644 )

        That's the same argument that claims graphite is the same as diamond, and is just as wrong.

    • I'm sure most of the lawyers are vegans, and already speak up for them as well. Keep in mind that a victory for any other species opens the door for the rest - including farm animals. If a chimpanzee is granted personhood, and a pig is nearly as smart as a can see where this goes.
  • 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.
    • Enlightened idea? No, this is just foolishness.
    • Consider that we provide children a special status in our society. We consider children to be persons and afford them rights as such. Yet we do not hold them accountable for murder in the same way we do for human adults. Giving a chimp the status person does not mean we have to give them the same rights as human adults.
    • They are asking to grant "person" status. Not Human status.

    • by eyenot ( 102141 )

      I like how you're saying that homo sapiens isn't ready for lower primates. That's pretty clever, I like how you did that.

      You don't think it has something to do with more fundamental problems, do you? Like how we're the only living thing with a voice box capable of producing speech? That, might not be a big issue in your model of the Amazing Human World of the Future?

  • 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.

    • You forgot the possibilities of malicious wounding, attempted murder, and murder. Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and often violent
    • 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.

    • Maybe we can just deport the chimps back to where they came from....?

  • Legal Fiction (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From my understanding, the lawyers were hoping to create a legal fiction such that habeas corpus would be applicable to the chimpanzees, similar to the way that personhood is granted to corporations for many different purposes. A corporation needs to be a "person" so it can be sued. But corporate personhood does not grant corporations every right that people have. The same thing is happening here. No one wants to give chimpanzees the right to vote.

  • YOUR Taxpayer dollars. Can society sue people who file such frivolous lawsuits to force them to pay for the court's time and legal costs of defending against such silliness? Because I already have to pay for enough silly shit without adding stuff like this to the list.
  • I'm trying to keep up, but I think this is the hierarchy of rights that I have seen in the US.
    It's hard to settle on the exact order. Each item could up or down one level.

    1 People in my country.
    2 Corporations
    3 People in other countries
    4 People in other countries who look like they have nothing
    5 Cute animals
    6 Monkeys that aren't so cute
    7 non-cute things that can't harm me
    8 scary things

    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
    • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:43AM (#45670859) Homepage

      1 US Corporations
      2 Foreign Corporations
      3 People in my country
      4 People in other countries
      5 People in other countries who look like they have nothing
      6 Cute animals
      7 Monkeys that aren't so cute
      8 People in countries the US government doesn't like
      9 non-cute things that can't harm me
      10 scary things


    • 1 Rich People in my country.
      2 Corporations (based anywhere)
      3 Rich People in other countries
      4 People in my country who pay taxes
      5 Cute animals
      6 Monkeys that aren't so cute
      7 non-cute things that can't harm me
      8 scary things
      9 Poor people in my country
      10 Poor people in other countries
      11 Poor people in other countries who want to be free.

  • That monkey needs to incorporate!

  • 1. giving a chimp personhood status would simply galvanize the deep south to further refute and disregard the theory of evolution. everything from parking meters to toilet seats at countless courthouses would be etched with the 10 commandments. obama earns another 40 cities he cant visit without staying in the car, and a grumbly subset of abortion doctors just put on another layer of body armor.
    2. im sure more than one pet foods company and pharmaceutical conglomerate would be a bit furious at the pros
  • That boy needs therapy. Psychosomatic. That boy needs therapy. Purely psychosomatic. That boy needs therapy. Lie down on the couch! What does that mean? You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!
    What does that mean? That boy needs therapy.

    I'm gonna kill you.

  • Serious question, and probably a bit offtopic here, but could anyone who actually has a real understanding of how the law works explain in layman's terms what is really gained in society by considering corporations as people? I can imagine there must be some benefit, but I'm not sure what it is.
    • The main reason as I understand it is that if corporations weren't people then they would have no legal status. For example, you could not sue them. They could not form contracts and be held accountable for these contracts.

      This legal doctrine goes back to a Supreme Court in the first 30 years of the Republic. Since at least Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward â" 17 U.S. 518 (1819), the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to e

  • 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.

  • The higher up it goes, the more effective the ruling is.

    Another thing I'd like to point out is that marijuana is illegal because they used chimps to demonstrate that if you suffocate a monkey with smoke, it kills them.
  • with an infinite amount of type and infinite amount of personhood will eventually form their own corporation.

  • Suppose you are an alien judge in a galaxy-spanning, multi-species civilization -- something like the Federation in Star Trek, but humans haven't joined yet. Furthermore it's permissable for members, some of whom are carnivores, to kill animals, but not other natural persons.

    A case is brought to you in which a research team has captured a human hunter who has just killed chimpanzee. They bring the hunter back for trial on the charges of murdering of a natural person.

    What are your instructions to the prose

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.