Chimp Sues Over Living Conditions

Next to file: dolphins, elephants

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 26, 2014 5:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – A lawyer and his team are fighting for animal rights in an unusual way: by filing lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees. The New York Times focuses on the case of Tommy, a chimp who is, as Charles Siebert writes, effectively suing for better living conditions. Despite protections under the law, Siebert notes, "the fundamental legal status of nonhumans ... as property, with no rights of their own, has remained unchanged." But legal expert Steven Wise, who is leading the effort, argues that one need not be a human being to be a legal person.

He focuses on the animals' autonomy, pointing to extensive research that shows chimps' cognitive abilities. "Like humans,” his team asserts in a legal memo, "chimpanzees have a concept of their personal past and future" and "they suffer the pain of not being able to fulfill their needs or move around as they wish." Wise's initial suits have been rebuffed by judges, though some have expressed their admiration. Now, he's working on appeals, and it's all part of what he calls a "25-year plan" to help the animals—beginning with chimps, but eventually moving to dolphins, parrots, elephants, and others. Click for the full piece.

A chimpanzee is taking legal action regarding his living conditions.
A chimpanzee is taking legal action regarding his living conditions.   (Shutterstock)
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