Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NY chimps NOT granted habeas corpus-not recognized as legal persons

A story received wide circulation yesterday stating that two Stony Brook University lab chimpanzees had been granted the writ of habeas corpus, thus effectively giving them the right to challenge their imprisonment and making them human in the eyes of the NY court. This is NOT the case.

The court document challenging the imprisonment of these two chimpanzees, Leo and Hercules, filed by The Nonhuman Rights Project, has the words "writ of habeas corpus" crossed out. See the document here. While the judge, Barbara Jaffe, originally did not strike out these words in the first document, she has since amended it.

Portion of the amended court document
However, this case is still ground-breaking, as it is the first time chimpanzees have ever been granted an Order to Show Cause. Chimpanzees now have the right to be heard (remember, this case still has to go to court). It will be interesting to follow this case and see what decision is made. Although chimpanzees (and any non-human animal) have never been granted legal personhood, it seems they might be getting closer.

In December of 2014, a court in Argentina appeared to give an orangutan, named Sandra, human rights, but once the court document was properly translated into English, it became clear the media originally erred and this was not the case. Whether or not Sandra is entitled to human rights is now a confusing matter, but this no longer looks like the landmark case it was made out to be.

As of today, it appears that apes have not been granted the same rights as humans in the United States. They have not been declared non-human persons and have never been granted the writ of habeas corpus. 

Links of interest:
How human are chimps?
The Nonhuman Rights Project
Jane Goodall's stance on chimpanzees and their rights

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