In a smashing blow to animal rights groups a New York State appellate court handed down a decision Thursday stating that chimpanzees do not have legal personhood and, therefore, are not entitled to constitutional protections. The panel of three judges ruled unanimously that the chimp’s owner is not obligated to release the animal in which attorneys for the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) argued that the chimpanzees conditions are unlawful imprisonment.
According to Science Insider, the chimpanzee’s attorneys sought to free the chimpanzee from the conditions under his ownership. The status the group sought was not to declare the animal named Tommy as human but with legal personhood which would entitle it to habeas corpus protections allowing the organization to petition for Tommy’s release. According to CNN, the Tommy lives in a cage on a trailer lot in Gloversville, New York owned by a Patrick Lavery. Fortunately, the NhRP have set a precedent that can work against them and their cause.
The judges also noted that there had been no prior complaints of any mistreatment or any state guidelines had ever been violated. As Science Insider reports, the court’s ruling specifically states:
In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights — such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus — that have been afforded to human beings.
Under closer examination of the case, it looks like it might involve securing the chimps in order to prevent them for being used for medical testing. The overall case actually involved four chimpanzees. Two of them live in cages in Patrick Lavery’s trailer lot while the others are used in a Stony Brook University laboratory. Tommy’s owner says the chimpanzees are well cared for and are housed under supervision of the state of New York.
The Nonhuman Rights Project states they will appeal and, hopefully, the group will fail. If NhHP is successful then a court decision granting an animal habeas corpus protections can open a can of worms. If the chimps are used for medical testing then any animal used used for that purpose in New York could be given constitutional protections. That could also apply to even circuses or other forms of domesticated animal ownership. To animal rights organizations, any form of animal ownership is considered cruel. It is one thing if the chimpanzees in question were treated harshly, but according to their owner they are not.
What I have read of the decision, the court ruled correctly. Individual rights are not based on a being’s capacity to feel pain, as some animal rights groups (like NhRP & PETA) allege. Rights are based on a being’s capacity to think. It is mankind’s ability to think and reason that makes humans nature’s favored species. Animals lack any rational faculties in which their primary means of survival is predatory instincts. I do not advocate nor do I look highly upon cruelty toward animals. However, so-called animal rights groups’ definition of cruelty just like their views on when rights apply and activities like litigating cases like this is only geared to destroy individual rights in order to eradicate human existence.