On Thursday, [animal lawyer Steve] Wise — who founded the Nonhuman Rights Project on behalf of the great apes, cetaceans and elephants — will go before the appellate division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Manhattan and argue that two of his clients, chimpanzees Kiko and Tommy, should be afforded the rights of “personhood.” …
Wise is hoping to prove in the eyes of the court that chimpanzees and other great apes aren’t “things” but rather are autonomous beings that possess consciousness and deserve to live their lives to the fullest possible extent of that autonomy. …
Despite representing the primates for the better part of four years, checking on their condition is a frustrating subject for the staff at Nonhuman Rights Project.
“We see them as clients of ours, but we can’t get a jail house visit or help them exercise a Sixth Amendment right,” said Kevin Schneider, executive director of Nonhuman Right Project.
A Sixth Amendment right. Did I mention that we are talking about chimpanzees?
One of the chimpanzees is owned by a Florida farmer. The other lives at the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls, New York.
Although Wise and Schneider said the chimpanzees aren’t being kept in ideal conditions, they’re not alleging their owners have done anything wrong. …
“We specifically say we are not alleging [the owners] have violated any local, state or federal law,” Wise said. “What we’re saying is those laws are grossly insufficient and [the chimpanzees] should have right to bodily liberty. We’re not trying to protect their welfare, we’re trying to protect rights.”
Cue up the sound of a cuckoo clock.
Wise said the only reason chimpanzees and other great apes are able to be kept in cages is because they are legally deemed “things.”
If Unwise gets his way, it will be bad news for scientists doing crucial medical research, and also for zoos. But it will be great news for chimpanzees, who will get the benefits of human rights without any of the responsibilities. The next time a chimpanzee goes berserk and rips its owner’s face off, as happened to Sandra Herold of Connecticut, the courts may have to let it go free on the grounds that it is not a “thing,” but also does not understand right and wrong.
On tips from Bodhisattva and Steve A.