New York’s highest court dealt the final blow to the Nonhuman Rights Project’s (NHRP) attempt to obtain habeas corpus rights for two chimpanzees used for scientific tests at Stony Brook University and two others held in upstate New York. On Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, the New York State Court of Appeals announced it would not hear the case.
State appeals courts in Rochester and Albany rejected the NhRP’s assertions aimed at freeing two chimpanzees held in Gloversville and Niagara Falls and two others interned at Stony Brook University, respectively. This is excellent news since the implications for a ruling in favor of the NhRP’s position would have had profound legal and even political consequences.
If successful, the animals would have been given legal recognition as people. Fortunately, the courts consistently rejected the request made by animal rights attorneys to give the chimpanzees held in Stony Book University and upstate New York habeas corpus rights. New York Appellate Court Judge Barbara Jaffe articulated it beautifully when she said (quoting from The New York Times):
For the purpose of establishing rights, the law presently categorizes entities in a simple, binary, ‘all or nothing,’ fashion,” the justice wrote, noting: Persons have rights, duties, and obligations. Things do not. Animals, including chimpanzees and other highly intelligent mammals, are considered property under the law, she continued. They are accorded no legal rights, beyond being free from mistreatment or abuse. In her ruling Judge Jaffe went on to state that, while such definitions of people and personhood could evolve over time, she also said her ruing was bound by a 2014 state appellate court decision concluding that chimpanzees are not legal persons due to a chimpanzee’s inability to take on duties or responsibilities of adult humans (such as voting, jury duty or paying rent).
New York State attorney general representative Eric T. Schneiderman, who defended Stony Brook University, saw the sinister nature of the NhRP’s logic. The New York Times quoted him as saying it was a radical attempt to blur the legal boundaries that exist between humans and animals. His office knew the risks of the Nonhuman Rights Project prevailing in court, stating in a memo filed in May of this year:
Any such extension of the writ could set a precedent for the release of other animals held in captivity, whether housed at a zoo, in an educational institution, on a farm, or owned as a domesticated pet, and enmesh New York courts in continuing litigation.
The underlying reasoning of New York judge’s decisions that have heard this case essentially and correctly state that rights are based on a being’s ability to act based on a being’s ability to think and reason. Consequently, animals have no such capability, therefore, they cannot be afforded legal protections that humans enjoy. Animal rights groups’ definition of cruelty, just like their views on when rights apply and activities like litigating cases such as this, is only geared to destroying individual rights with the end goal eradicating human existence. Though NhRP may find another case to litigate, hopefully the New York supreme and appellate court’s rejection of NhRP’s case will make it even harder for the animal rights movement’s attempt to use law courts to declare animals as being on par with humans.