This past Monday a New York judge initially ruled that chimpanzees are entitled to habeas corpus rights which are Constitutional protections that are normally set aside for people. A science blogger at The Washington Post states, she ended up amending her order striking out the words related to habeas corpus protections. Judge Barbara Jaffe did leave in place the ability to represent the chimps in court but whether or not the chimps are persons is still open for debate … for now.
Despite the latter set back, the Non-human Rights Project (so called) is undaunted. The group sees the initial ruling as getting their foot in the door to granting animals full human rights. The Washington Post blogger states the NhRP has been trying to get chimps and other animals (such as dolphins and elephants) the same rights as humans for many years. If they are successful, the group will, most likely, litigate even more lawsuits using Judge Jaffe’s ruling as the basis for it.
The case centers around four New York chimpanzees—Hercules and Leo at Stony Brook, and two others on private property. The NhRP claims the chimps in question are too cognitively and emotionally complex to be held in captivity and should be relocated to an established chimpanzee sanctuary. Three lower courts sided with the property owner by rejecting the NhRP’s requests for writs of habeas corpus protections for the chimps. Had Judge Jaffe not amended her initial decision, the NhRP would have had license to harass and intimidate zoos, medical labs that use animals for testing and even animal owners with lawsuits if the group deemed their captivity as inhumane.
However, there may not be much to the ruling itself. When the judge’s decision was made, Science Insider recently quoted Pepperdine University Law Professor Richard Cupp who stated:
“The judge may merely want more information to make a decision on the legal personhood claim, and may have ordered a hearing simply as a vehicle for hearing out both parties in more depth,” he writes in an e-mail to Science. “It would be quite surprising if the judge intended to make a momentous substantive finding that chimpanzees are legal persons if the judge has not yet heard the other side’s arguments.”
Unlike what animal rights groups (like NhRP and PeTA) allege, individual rights are not based on a being’s capacity to feel pain, but 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 condone cruelty toward animals. What I condemn are efforts on the part of animal rights groups seeking to give animals the same rights as humans. 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 obliterate human existence.