Nonhuman species looking for justice.

Author:Hitch, David
Position::Editorials
 
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Byline: David Hitch

Legal rights for animals? Not so fast.

A few weeks ago, says the New York Post, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe "inadvertently bestowed human status on two chimpanzees being used for biomedical research at Stony Brook University on Long Island.''

The chimps, Hercules and Leo, were granted habeas corpus -- a legal action through which human detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment -- in response to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Nonhuman Rights Project. The lawsuit requested that Hercules and Leo be moved to a South Florida sanctuary. Justice Jaffe ruled that the university must establish cause for holding the two chimps (to be reviewed at a May 6 hearing).

Well, the Nonhuman Rights Project people quickly claimed that the initial ruling "implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are 'persons,''' which could, potentially, open a big door to granting legal rights to animals.

An angry Justice Jaffe said she had no such intention and quickly amended her court order by crossing out the words "Writ of Habeas Corpus'' -- which means Hercules and Leo do not have any human rights at all.

The issue of legal rights for animals has been a source of debate for some time.

According to Science Magazine, some legal scholars take issue with the current legal system that treats animals as property and not independent beings. Cases like that of Hercules and Leo are intended to call attention to the matter and eventually grant some legal rights to animals.

Other legal scholars argue that apes and chimps and other creatures that are fairly well advanced should have rights similar to those of a human child.

According to The Washington Post, legal scholar Stephen Wise, a longtime advocate for legal rights for some animals, said that "Certain species are capable of complex emotions, can communicate using language, and have a sense of self. I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee and my 4 1/2-year-old son.''

That may be so, but perhaps your son could use a shave?

Wise said that chimps, for instance, have...

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