Human Exceptionalism

Chimp Habeas Corpus Redux

My post yesterday about the lawsuit in Austria to grant a chimp the rights of personhood, linked to this post from 2005 about a chimp being issued a writ of habeas corpus in Brazil. That old post was, in turn, linked on science.slashdot.org, resulting in thousands of visitors to SHS, and many comments on the old blog entry, as well as some profane hate mail directed at yours truly. (The current entry was not linked.) I have quoted it below in case anyone else wants to get into the fray, either here at SHS or at Slashdot:

I have been warning for some time now that the animal liberation movement seeks to change the law so that animals can be litigants in lawsuits. (What would really happen is the animal liberationists would be the litigants, with the animal as the unknowing “beard.”) Well it has happened in Brazil. I don’t have a link, but here is the story. (Hat tip: Center for Consumer Freedom.)

Correio da Bahia (Brazil)

October 6, 2005

Historic Decision Recognizes Chimpanzee as Legal Subject

At a hearing, the decision of a judge that granted habeas corpus to Suíça was discussed.

By Ciro Brigham

[translated from Portuguese]

Suíça, the chimpanzee who died on September 27, 2005 at the Salvador zoo, just became part of Brazilian legal history: She is the first animal to be recognized as a “legal subject” in a legal action. The judge, Edmundo Lúcio da Cruz, who analyzed the petition for habeas corpus submitted to the “9th Criminal Court” by petitioner/lawyers Heron José de Santana and Luciano Rocha Santana, ruled in favor of the chimpanzee. The decision was made on September 28 and published in the “Official Diary” on October 4th, World Animal Day, the same date that honors Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.

“Animals are not able to bring actions in court, in the same manner as persons, since they are only legal objects and are treated as property.” This ruling, given a few years ago by a judge in Rio de Janeiro to a lawyer petitioning for the liberty of a bird imprisoned in a cage, is outdated. To the joy of Bahia’s animal protection groups, Judge Edmundo Cruz has very different thoughts.

If an animal is being mistreated, it is a human obligation to remedy the situation. But no animal should have the right to petition a human court for a legal remedy as if it were human. Moreover, granting animals a legal status as a litigant, is to state that the animal is a person. Persons can sue those who wrong them in tort. Thus, such thinking would surely quickly “evolve” into animals bringing lawsuits in tort for money damages (with the damages or court ordered attorney’s fees going to animal liberationists).

Imagine the harm to scientific advancement if a lab rat could sue for assault and battery because it was the subject of a medical experiment. Consider the consequences if a horse or a cow could sue to be freed from involuntary servitude. Animal liberationists would use the legal system to drive animal-using businesses into the dirt. Indeed, I have no doubt that is the plan.

But turning animals into the moral equals of humans will not only result in great human harm, such as stunting medical progress, but even more perniciously, distort our self perception into being just another animal in the forest. If that is who we think we are, that is precisely how we will act.

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