animal abuse, animal welfare, chimpanzee, legal, Nonhuman Rights Project, Tierrecht, Tierschutz

Animals in Court

What approach to changing how humans treat animals is more effective: appealing to the conscience and hearts of humans not to hurt other beings or changing the laws so that other beings besides humans have the same legal status? Here is a group of lawyers fighting in court for the rights of animals:

“A legal team from the Nonhuman Rights Project argued on their behalf of Hercules and Leo — two chimpanzee plaintiffs wrongly imprisoned inside a SUNY animal experimentation laboratory – in a New York Supreme Court. Here are some of the news reports of Hercules’ and Leo’s historic day in court:

For a general overview of the proceedings, follow this link for a short Fox News TV report.

Wired magazine focuses on the fact that Justice Barbara Jaffe decided to call both sides into court for a hearing at all. It quotes me as telling reporters after the hearing that the fact that she held a full hearing represents a victory in itself. “Many human beings have these kinds of hearings,” I said. “Chimpanzees are now being treated like all the other autonomous beings of this world.”

Wired also takes note of how the judge challenged New York Assistant Attorney General Christopher Coulston’s argument that there’s no precedent for a case like this. It is the very essence of the common law, she said, that it “evolves according to new discoveries and social mores.” And so, she asked, “Isn’t it incumbent on judiciaries to at least consider whether a class of beings may be granted a right?”

The New York Times quotes me telling the court that chimpanzees “are the kinds of beings who can remember the past and plan ahead for the future, which is one of the reasons imprisoning a chimp is at least as bad, and maybe worse, than imprisoning a person.” They are enough like humans that they should have a right to “bodily liberty,” even if other rights, like voting or freedom of religion, are beyond them.

The Guardian also takes up the scientific evidence presented by the Nonhuman Rights Project, citing the voluminous research on “chimpanzee intelligence, emotions and consciousness” and noting that Hercules and Leo are “autonomous and self-determining beings.”

Courthouse News picks up on the parallel that the Nonhuman Rights Project draws between the imprisonment of chimpanzees and human slavery, adding that Coulston “bristled” at the comparison. “This language of animals as slaves is exactly what I’m talking about of the slippery slope,” he said, arguing that the case could open up the possibility of court cases on the rights of zoo animals, farmed animals, and even pets.”

Here are the links to more information:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4260819425001/should-chimpanzees-have-the-same-legal-rights-as-humans/?playlist_id=921261890001#sp=show-clips

http://www.wired.com/2015/05/chimpanzee-rights-get-day-court/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/nyregion/arguing-in-court-whether-2-chimps-have-the-right-to-bodily-liberty.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/27/chimpanzee-animals-rights-new-york-court

http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/05/27/unprecedented-hearing-on-habeas-for-chimps.htm

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/05/27/410058029/research-chimps-get-their-day-in-court-in-new-york

http://www.wsj.com/articles/chimps-get-their-day-in-court-in-n-y-personhood-hearing-1432756362

Thank you for spreading the news on animal awareness!

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