Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

NY Court: Chimps not 'persons' with human rights

Today, a three-judge panel of the NY State Appellate Division ruled unanimously to deny personhood to a chimp named Tommy. Last year, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a writ of habeas corpus to deliver the chimp from private captivity.

In the amicus curiae brief I filed with the appellate court earlier this year, I contended that the writ of habeus corpus has only ever applied to human beings and that no non-human animal can be equated with a human being:

"Jurisprudentially, rights follow from duties....If a creature cannot intelligibly be said to have obligations, it cannot be said to have rights."

For support, my brief cited two of Mortimer J. Adler's books: The Difference of Man and The Difference It Makes (Henry Holt 1969) and Intellect (Macmillan 1990). 

Today, the court agreed on the same grounds:

"Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. 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."

The Nonhuman Rights Project has vowed to appeal to New York State's highest court. If they do, I will follow with another amicus brief. Stay tuned...

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