Chimpanze and HumanOn Monday, the first lawsuit seeking to classify chimpanzees as legal persons was filed in a New York state court.  According to Reuters, a U.S. animal rights group, the non-profit Nonhuman Rights Project, has asked the court to find that a chimpanzee is "a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned."

If you are wondering where the sudden desire to classify chimpanzees as humans came from, you are not alone.  When I first read the title of this story, “New York lawsuit seeks 'legal personhood' for chimpanzees” I immediately became curious as to its back-story.  Why is it necessary to establish "legal personhood" for chimpanzees?  Harsh treatment, of course!

Tommy the Chimpanzee and His Unlawful Living Situation Prompts Lawsuit Seeking to Classify Chimpanzees as Legal “Persons”

A 26-year-old chimpanzee named Tommy is allegedly detained in a "small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed." According to Steven Wise, the president of Nonhuman Rights Project, Tommy is kept in a “used trailer lot in Gloversville, New York” and looks terrible and depressed.  The lawsuit alleges that this living situation is unlawful.  The animal rights group wants Tommy to be released and placed in a primate sanctuary.

Chimpanzee Are Allegedly Entitled to Certain Fundamental Rights

According to Steven Wise, chimpanzees "possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they're found in human beings" and that’s why chimpanzees should apparently be provided with those protections as well.  He also alleges that chimpanzees are entitled to a "fundamental right to bodily liberty," which according to Wise “is the basic right to be left alone and not held for entertainment or research.”

Do you think that a chimpanzee should be considered a “person” and should also be entitled to fundamental rights to bodily liberty?

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