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  • Bob Kohn

Chimps are not 'persons' with human rights


Today, a three-judge panel of a NY State Appellate Division ruled unanimously to deny personhood to a chimp named Tommy. In the amicus brief I filed with the court earlier this year, I contended that the writ of habeus corpus has only ever applied to human beings and that no non-human animal can be equated with a human being, because human rights flow from the obligations we have to each other.

"Non-human animals, having only an instinct to survive rather than a free will to choose otherwise, can neither understand nor carry out moral or legal obligations, such as respecting the life, liberty, and property of others."

The court agreed:

"Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights – such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus – that have been afforded to human beings."

The Nonhuman Rights Project has vowed to appeal to New York State's highest court. If they do, I will follow with another amicus brief. Stay tuned...


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