Are chimpanzees people—just like corporations? Chimps deserve to be considered legal persons with some of the same rights as people—including the "fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned," according a lawsuit in New York state. The Nonhuman Rights Project has filed a writ of habeas corpus demanding an end to the "unlawful detention" of a 26-year-old chimp called Tommy, who is being kept in a "small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed," reports the New York Times. The group, which has been planning this legal strategy for years, plans to file suits this week seeking the freedom of three more chimps on the basis that they have a "fundamental right to bodily liberty ."
Chimps "possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they're found in human beings," the project's president tells Reuters. "There's no reason why they should not be protected when they're found in chimpanzees." The group, which wants to move the chimps to a sanctuary, argues that the four chimps are already legal persons under New York law because it has set up a trust for them. Tommy's owner, meanwhile, argues that he has complied with all legal regulations, and given the chimp, which he says he saved from a home where he was badly treated, a cage "with tons of toys."