Editorial: Legal rights for chimpanzees?

Lawyers for the “Nonhuman Rights Project” have filed a lawsuit against The University of New York at Stony Brook on behalf of “Hercules” and “Leo” – two chimpanzees who are being “unlawfully detained.”


Fortunately, New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe does not agree that the chimps have all the rights that human beings have but she did initially grant a writ of habeas corpus (it was later scratched out) so the chimps could come to court and plead their case for freedom. It is believed that their lawyers will do most of the talking in court.

SUNY has the chimps to study their anatomical movements. There is no allegation that the chimps are being abused or not properly cared for.

The issue is freedom for the chimps. It’s unlikely the chimps will win this case. And even if they would win, they would probably not be set free in Stony Brook but simply relocated to a bigger sanctuary. The NRP (not to be confused with NPR) wants monkeys to not be thought of as things but as persons. And as persons, they would have a legal right to freedom.

America has laws to protect animals (dog fighting, cock fighting, etc. are illegal). Cities have laws against cruelty to animals and lack of care.

Research scientists have slowed the usage of chimps for medical research and some pharmaceutical companies ban research on monkeys. But humans are distinct from animals. Humans have souls and are made in the image of God. While we should treat animals as well as we can, they are not on the same level as human beings.

These chimps have a pretty good life. They shouldn’t be given special legal status.