Chimpanzees are, legally speaking, still not people following a unanimous ruling by a New York state appeals court Thursday, the New York Daily News reports. The Nonhuman Rights Project is attempting to secure a writ of habeas corpus for Tommy, who lawyer Steven Wise says lives in a cement cage in a warehouse, and Kiko, who lives in a storefront. According to the AP, Wise bases his argument on chimps' position as humans' closest relatives, their ability to use simple tools, their capacity to learn simple sign language, and more. But the court ruled that, similarities to people or not, chimps lack the "capacity or ability ... to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions," Reuters reports. The ruling upheld another from January.
The Nonhuman Rights Project is seeking to have chimps classified as legal "persons," with all the rights that implies. "For 2,000 years, all nonhuman animals have been legal things who lack the capacity for any legal rights," Wise says. He earlier tried and failed to get two chimps held by a New York university released. In addition to concluding Tommy and Kiko lack the wherewithal to face justice in a habeas corpus case, the court also concluded that Wise isn't actually seeking their freedom but rather to transfer them from one form of detention—private ownership—to another—a primate sanctuary. The court concluded that while Wise's cause is "laudable," it's more of a legislative issue. The Nonhuman Rights Project plans to appeal to the state supreme court.