New York Court Recognizes Chimps As Legal Non-Human Persons


Last Tuesday, a New York judge made history by recognizing two chimpanzees as “persons” in a court case.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ordered that a cause and writ of habeas corpus be presented on behalf of two chimpanzees currently being held for experimentation purposes at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.

To translate: her demand means that the two chimps, Hercules and Leo, are to be summoned into the court, and their custodian, Stony Brook University, must present proof and make an argument that it has the right to hold the chimps captive.

Until that momentous happening, the right to appear before a judge and question the authority of a custodian had only been granted to human prisoners, as the law only specifies a “legal person” is entitled to it. But after this momentous decision, Hercules and Leo are now the first “non human” animals to be effectively and implicitly considered “persons” in such a case.

Animal rights activists pumping their fist into the air in delight at such a victory can thank The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP). This organization has been fighting for animals to be recognized as non-human sentient “persons” entitled to basic rights for quite some time now.

Credit: The Petition Site

It was the NhRP that filed suit requesting that Hercules and Leo be granted writ of habeas corpus in 2013. And after being denied twice in Suffolk County, the organization re-filed suit on March, 2015 in the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan.

A public hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 am when Stony Brook University, represented by the Attorney General of New York, will have to share enough proof that the chimpanzees should remain imprisoned and continue to be experimented on.

If the court rules in the favor of NhRP (and the chimps’ right to freedom), they will both be released from the university and taken to Save the Chimps, a sanctuary in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

There, they will live among 250 other chimps in one of the 13 artificial lands situated on a large lake which mimics the species’ natural habitat in Africa.

While this ruling is unique, NhRP is hoping to soon make it a norm. They are already working on getting the same rights for other imprisoned chimps, which no doubt will be helped by Tuesday’s decision.

What are your thoughts? Comment below. And if you are inspired, share this article with others to help raise awareness for Hercules’ and Leo’s case!

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