Two chimpanzees being used for mobility research at Stony Brook University in New York will not be released to a sanctuary because a state supreme court judge has dismissed the lawsuit seeking to grant them personhood. The reason comes down to legal precedent: A higher court ruled last year that another chimpanzee, Tommy, is property, not a person, reports the AP. In May, a lawyer had argued in court for the Nonhuman Rights Project that 8-year-old chimps Hercules and Leo are "autonomous and self-determining beings" that deserve similar rights as humans. He presented hundreds of pages of opinions from a range of experts like zoologists and biologists who all felt similarly: cognitively, chimps are an advanced species.
In a somewhat sympathetic 33-page decision, State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe called the effort to extend rights to chimps "understandable" and noted such a suit may one day succeed, giving the reasoning that "legal person" and "human being" aren't necessarily synonymous, reports NBC News. But she added: "The past mistreatment of humans, whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property, does not, however, serve as a legal predicate or appropriate analogy for extending to nonhumans the status of legal personhood." The group plans to appeal the decision, reports the Wall Street Journal, which notes that more lawsuits are likely to be filed on behalf of animals held in captivity. Hercules and Leo have been held by Stony Brook since 2010. (See why this grandma is suing SeaWorld.)