Here's a round-up of news reports about the court hearing yesterday regarding chimpanzees Hercules and Leo, who are being imprisoned at Stony Brook University for use in a locomotion research project.
This week, the Nonhuman Rights Project goes to court to argue before a judge that Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees being held captive for locomotion experiments at a research lab at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, have the legal right not to be imprisoned and that they should be set free and sent to a sanctuary.
New York's Attorney General will be defending the right of the university to keep them imprisoned. The A.G.'s office calls the suit a "radical attempt" that could lead to the undermining of the factory farm industry in that it "could set a precedent for the release of other animals ... 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."
Last week, when zoo officials in Japan named a baby monkey Charlotte in honor of the newborn British princess, they set off a storm of protest. Naming a monkey after a princess? How disrespectful can you get?
The Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden had invited people to send in their favorite name, and Charlotte was the winner, with 59 votes out of 853. (Runners-up were a tennis player and a Disney character.) Anxious not to cause any offence, the zoo sought advice from the British Embassy in Tokyo. The British Embassy, equally anxious not to offend the people of Japan, especially since the British royals are very popular there, said that no offence had been caused.
So the monkey and the princess will share their name after all. (And, as in all proper princess-and-monkey stories, both will hopefully live happily ever after.)
Justice Jaffe has amended the order she issued yesterday in a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), regarding two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.
Yesterday it read “ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE & WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS”. This afternoon, Justice Jaffe struck out the words “& WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS” from the title of her Order.
The judge has not commented on her amendment. But the fact is we have entered unmapped legal territory, and we should expect a certain amount of confusion as these cases go forward, more back-and-forth, revisions and re-revisions, appeals and counter-appeals.
Yesterday's decision was a huge step forward. Today's amendment sets it back a small step. But the step forward is still huge, and the door is still open for the court to recognize that Hercules and Leo are legal persons with the fundamental right to bodily liberty.
Here's the NhRP's interpretation of the situation: Read more
For the first time in history, a judge has granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a nonhuman animal.
This afternoon, in a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued the writ on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.
Under the law of New York State, only a "legal person" may have a writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are "persons".
In the first-ever case of its kind, an orangutan at a zoo in Argentina has been recognized by a high court as being a "legal person" with the capacity for certain legal rights, including habeas corpus, so she may be taken from the zoo and sent to a sanctuary.
Sounds great. Except that none of it is true.
The New York State Appellate Court, Third Division, has issued its decision in the case of Tommy the chimpanzee, and has essentially opened the door for Tommy’s case to be taken to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
If chimpanzees and gorillas had their own version of the Internet, they'd probably be posting headlines like:
Gorillas Face Extinction as Invasive Species Rampages through Forests
Humans Most Likely Source of Deadly Infection . . .
That's because while most of us seven billion humans are at small risk of catching Ebola, the same is not true for our great ape cousins. They're catching it in droves.
We don't know the numbers yet, but with gorillas and chimpanzees already facing extinction, Ebola could be the final coup-de-grace.
Tommy the chimpanzee is headed back to court. He won't be there in person, but the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is appealing a December ruling of a lower court that denied him the legal right to "bodily liberty." (Setting of new precedents is generally left to the higher courts.)
You'll recall that Tommy is one of four chimpanzees in New York State who, according to the NhRP, are being held unlawfully under the common law and should be released to a sanctuary. (The other three are Hercules and Leo, who are being held at a research facility at Stony Brook University, and Kiko, who is being kept as a "pet" in a private home.)
The judges in each of the lower court hearings denied the writs of habeas corpus, which would have enabled the chimpanzees to be transferred to sanctuaries, but two of them clearly indicated that they supported what the NhRP is setting out to do.
Legal rights for animals?? Expect Stephen Colbert to be suitably shocked, horrified and appalled when, in character as the classic right-wing bloviator, he welcomes Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project as his special guest, Thursday evening, on The Colbert Report. Read more
A new study of captive chimpanzees concludes that the personality traits of chimpanzees are almost identical to those of humans.
I asked psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas at Austin what's been learned from the study. Prof. Gosling didn't take part in this particular research, but, as one of the first people to study personality in nonhuman animals, he has perhaps the best overview of personality in all kinds of animals, both human and nonhuman.
Among other scoops, Siebert was able to talk with the judge who ruled in the case of Tommy the chimpanzee. I talked with him about that conversation, about the two years he spent preparing the article, and about what he's working on now.
Steven M. Wise, President of the Nonhuman Rights Project President, answers some of the questions we’ve been receiving in the wake of the cover story in the New York Times magazine.
First: “Why can’t a humane society or local authorities just go in and rescue those poor chimpanzees?”
Renowned author and journalist Charles Siebert writes about the Nonhuman Rights Project for this week's cover story in the New York Times Magazine.
Siebert accompanies attorney Steven Wise as he drives to the used trailer lot where Tommy the chimpanzee is being held in a dark shed. He attends the many meetings where the legal team is preparing the lawsuits on behalf of Tommy, Kiko, Hercules and Leo. And in December 2013 he follows Wise as those first, groundbreaking cases go to court in New York State.
When the Nonhuman Rights Project filed its first three lawsuits earlier this month, inviting judges in New York State to recognize four captive chimpanzees as “legal persons” with the right to bodily liberty, we were not expecting to set off a worldwide conversation.
But that’s exactly what’s happened – hundreds of articles, posts, comments, videos, chat sessions, conferences and general discussions in dozens of countries.
While the legal cases work their way through the higher courts over the coming months, it seems that this new conversation is one whose time has come. Our relationship, as humans, with our fellow animals is so damaged that few issues could be more important than how we relate to the natural world in the years ahead.