Moving on, here’s a shocker: Chimps are not people. Excerpt:
Chimpanzees do not deserve the same rights as people, a New York state appeals court unanimously concluded on Thursday, as it refused to order the release of two of the animals to a primate sanctuary.
The 5-0 decision by the Appellate Division in Manhattan is the latest defeat for the Nonhuman Rights Project and its lawyer Steven Wise in a long debate over whether caged chimpanzees are actually legal “persons” entitled like humans to bodily liberty.
Citing experts like British primatologist Jane Goodall, the Nonhuman Rights Project said chimpanzees and humans share many behavioral, cognitive and social capabilities.
It said this entitled chimpanzees to many of the same rights, and sought “habeas corpus” relief to win freedom for Tommy and Kiko, each held by a private owner in upstate New York.
But the shared capabilities “do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions,” Justice Troy Webber wrote for the appeals court.
“While petitioner’s avowed mission is certainly laudable, the according of any fundamental legal rights to animals, including entitlement to habeas relief, is an issue better suited to the legislative process,” Webber wrote.
Speaking as the guy who wrote a book on the topic (cast your eyes to the right) animal’s do not and can not have rights. We should and do accord legal protection to animals; animal cruelty statutes have a long history in Western law. But that’s not the same thing as acknowledging rights. Key difference; animal cruelty statutes apply only to the actions of humans.
Rights are essentially negative in nature; they define actions governments and our fellow citizens may not take. Government and our fellow citizens may not restrict our rights to self-expression, or to peaceably assemble, to bear arms or to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. But no animal has the necessary moral agency to understand this; a human can be held accountable for violating another’s rights, but an animal may not. It may be controlled or destroyed, but not put on trial. It cannot confront its accuser; it cannot appeal to a jury of its peers.
Now, I’ve had occasion to interact with great apes; specifically, chimps and an orangutan. It’s interesting, because when you look into the eyes of one of these close cousins you get an odd feeling; it’s not like looking at a cat or a dog. There’s something more there. But what there isn’t is human intelligence; what there isn’t is moral agency.
The Appellate Division in Manhattan got this one right.