Judge Contemplates Ethics of Chimps' Legal Status

Despite scientific confirmation that animals are sentient beings who experience complex emotions, the law has yet to catch up. The effort to grant non-human primates and other animals legal personhood is ongoing, and this week a New York judge made progress by stating that chimpanzees should not be classified as "things."

“Does an intelligent nonhuman animal who thinks and plans and appreciates life as human beings do have the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary cruelties and enforced detentions visited on him or her?” wrote Judge Eugene Fahey. “This is not merely a definitional question, but a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.”

The case in question involved the Nonhuman Rights Project's efforts to free chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, who were physically abused for TV and film and are currently confined using methods such as steel chains and padlocks around their necks.

Although Fahey voted with the majority, which ruled that chimpanzees could not be legal persons and are thus denied their right to freedom, he brought up an important point: "In elevating our species, we should not lower the status of other highly intelligent species."

The Nonhuman Rights Project views Fahey's statement as groundbreaking and historic in the mission to expand rights for animals.

Want to get involved as a voice for animals? Join the Nonhuman Rights Project here.

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Sources: One Green Planet; The Washington Post

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