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A judge in New York has made history after granting an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus to two chimpanzees, Leo and Hercules. This groundbreaking ruling came after a long, hard-fought battle from the Nonhuman Rights Project, a non-profit that seeks to grant legal personhood to animals. This amazing team of animal advocates and lawyers set out to gain Leo and Hercules personhood rights in 2013 and are finally on their way to getting these two chimps the freedom they deserve!
Leo and Hercules are currently being used in biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University; however, now that they have been granted the writ of habeas corpus, the Nonhuman Rights team can serve the University, forcing them to appear in court to prove the legal basis upon which they are holding these two chimps captive. If the court rules against Stony Brook University, then Leo and Hercules are set to be released from the lab and sent to Save the Chimps Sanctuary in Ft. Pierce, Florida. This secondary court date is set for May, 6, 2015, but may be moved up to occur earlier in May.
The idea of granting animals legal personhood has become a highly controversial topic in recent years. While it may seem extreme to grant animals “human rights,” the writ of habeas corpus only allows nonhuman animals the most basic form of rights – driving and voting are not included. Personhood allows animals to be recognized as individuals rather than property and gives them the protection to lead their lives on their own right, rather than being subject to the will of humans.
Many animals, including chimpanzees, possess the ability of self-recognition, experience a wide range of emotions similar to humans, possess a degree of cognitive sophistication, and can solve complex problems, yet, due to their physiological difference from humans, we do not recognize these abilities. Sadly, this means that we have become accustomed to viewing animals as “lesser” beings than humans and as a result have subjected them to lives in cages for experimentation, entertainment, and in some cases, consumption. Knowing all that we do about animal’s abilities to feel pain, fear and recognize their own suffering, it is exceptionally cruel to continue to ignore their plight and deny them the most basic rights to life. However, with this ruling from New York State’s court, there is hope that our cultural perception of nonhuman animals will change for the better.
A big thank you to the Nonhuman Rights Project for standing up for animals and refusing to let their voices go unheard!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons