The Corner

Law & the Courts

NY Court Rules Chimps Not Entitled to Rights

This case should have been laughed out of court. Instead, the bid by the radical NonHuman Rights Project received a respectful ruling from a New York appeals court in its attempt to grant writs of habeas corpus to chimpanzees.

As I have noted, animals are not entitled to rights because none — by their very natures — are capable of assuming responsibilities or duties.  The court followed that same line of thinking. From the ruling (my emphasis):

The asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of chimpanzees 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.

Petitioner does not suggest that any chimpanzee charged with a crime in New York could be deemed fit to proceed, i.e., to have the “capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense” (CPL 730.10[1])…

Moreover, as noted in an amicus brief submitted by Professor Richard Cupp, nonhumans lack sufficient responsibility to have any legal standing, which, according to Cupp is why even chimpanzees who have caused death or serious injury to human beings have not been prosecuted.

Petitioner argues that the ability to acknowledge a legal duty or legal responsibility should not be determinative of entitlement to habeas relief, since, for example, infants cannot comprehend that they owe duties or responsibilities and a comatose person lacks sentience, yet both have legal rights. This argument ignores the fact that these are still human beings, members of the human community.

Laurence Tribe, the often lauded law professor, supported granting such rights to chimps. That is in furtherance of a very subversive animal rights agenda — known as “animal standing” — that would permit animals to sue (meaning, it would grant animal rights fanatics access to courts to further their own agendas).

The animal rights fanatics argued — as opponents of human exceptionalism always do — that since corporations are deemed juridical ”persons,” chimps should be too. Nope:

The underlying reasoning [of the case granting rights to corporations] was that the corporation’s property was really just the property of the individual shareholders who owned the corporation, and therefore should be protected in the same manner. Again, an acknowledgment that such laws are referenced to humans or individuals in a human community.

Alarmingly, the court “lauded” the goal of establishing rights for animals. No, that is an anti-human agenda that is in no way praiseworthy. Whatever standards are established for the proper humane care of animals — and certainly, they should be established — must always flow from our duties as humans, not the fiction that animals are capable of possessing rights.

This will not be the last case brought to establish animal personhood or human-style rights. May they all be dismissed out of hand as frivolous litigation and never again receive a respectful hearing in a court of appeals. 

Most Popular


Story Time with David Brooks

His latest column imagines a future in which Elizabeth Warren wins the next presidential election. Warren won convincingly. The Democrats built a bigger majority in the House, and to general surprise, won a slim Senate majority of 52 to 48. After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. ... Read More

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Defaces Its Façade

The facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1902, contains four large niches that might display sculpture but have traditionally been left empty. This was prudent good taste on the Met's part, since sculpture on buildings is a tricky business that few artists in our age of ... Read More

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More