US court dismisses chimp lawsuit

Jaffe threw out the Nonhuman Rights Project’s attempt to have the chimps, Hercules and Leo, relocated to Florida, saying she was bound by a decision from a state appeals court that dismissed a similar case by the group.


In contrast, she said, “persons” are defined as those who have “rights, duties and obligations that things do not”.

NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports “the animal rights group was trying to get them released to a sanctuary by arguing that the chimps have complex cognitive abilities and should be considered legal ‘persons.’ In the ruling, Justice Barbara Jaffe acknowledges that similarities between chimpanzees and humans ‘inspire the empathy for a beloved pet.’ “.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Manhattan judge Barbara Jaffe sided with the higher court decision last year that said the chimps Hercules and Leo are property, not people, and they’re not being unlawfully detained by the science department at Stony Brook University.

“They are accorded no legal rights beyond being guaranteed the right to be free from physical abuse and other mistreatment”. This past April, the group scored its first major victory when Jaffe ruled that Stony Brook had to come to court and defend its possession of Hercules and Leo. They don’t have any adults around.

A representative for the Nonhuman Rights Project didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

In today’s ruling, Jaffe seems to express some sympathy for NhRP’s arguments.

Nonhuman Rights Project also brought court cases on behalf of chimpanzees named Tommy and Kiko, who live in upstate New York with private owners. “The Nonhuman Rights Project is in my view a diversion from the central question of what form of protections should be afforded by people to animals and why”. “Some day they may even succeed”. “Courts, however, are slow to embrace change”.

Wise filed hundreds of pages of expert opinions from academics, zoologists, biologists and others he said supported the claim that cognitively, chimpanzees — along with dolphins, bonobos, orangutans and elephants — are advanced species.

“The decision … was correct, not only because it followed existing precedent, but because the entire project of seeking to confer legal rights on animals is misguided from the ground up”, writes Richard Epstein, a legal scholar at New York University (NYU) in New York City, in an email to ScienceInsider.


Nonhuman Rights Project lawyers have argued the highly intelligent chimpanzees are “autonomous and self-determining beings”.

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