Court: Chimp Isn't Human, Doesn't Get Human Rights

Which means 'Tommy' won't be freed from his owner
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2014 5:12 PM CST
Court: Chimp Isn't Human, Doesn't Get Human Rights
This Oct. 29, 2014, photo shows Tommy, a chimpanzee, at his home in Gloversville, N.Y.   (AP Photo/The Leader-Herald, Bill Trojan)

A strange human-rights case unfolded in a New York state courtroom today, strange because the subject isn't actually human. The upshot is this: An appellate court ruled that a chimpanzee named Tommy is not entitled to the same rights as people and thus does not have to be freed from its cage and sent to live in a chimp sanctuary, reports Wired. The group that sued on Tommy's behalf, the Nonhuman Rights Project, promised to appeal to the state's highest court. The group equates Tommy's solitary life in Gloversville, NY, to unlawful imprisonment and says that chimps are close enough to humans to enjoy habeas corpus protections, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The court disagreed. “Petitioner requests that this Court enlarge the common-law definition of ‘person’ in order to afford legal rights to an animal,” wrote the judges. “We decline to do so.” The judges decided that because Tommy doesn't have societal obligations, he's not entitled to societal protections. The chimp's owner, Patrick Lavery, tells the Guardian that Tommy has "an excellent home" with lots to do. "He's happy there," says Lavery, who called the lawsuit "ridiculous." (More chimpanzees stories.)

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