It had to be expected after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Remember the decision. Corporations are people too. Poor decisions open the door to bad law. Law School 101.

Several lawsuits have been brought in New york State in recent months to have chimpanzees declared “persons.” Once a chimp is a person, it has the inalienable rights of life and liberty.

Do not think such a result impossible. The Dred Scott decision in 1857 said Negroes were slaves. Neither person nor people. There was a time in history when women and children were considered property. Then, the Citizen United decision.

Leading the fight is Stephen J. Wise, an attorney and animal rights advocate. He has been at it for 30 years. Only recently has he minimally tasted a degree of success.

Chimpanzees are part of the Great Ape family. Part of the biological family Hominidae. The Great Ape family consists of humans, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Note humans are included. All have two similar characteristics. They are intelligent and autonomous.

Though not part of the Great Ape grouping, elephants, whales, and dolphins are also considered intelligent and autonomous.

I suspect Attorney Wise has proceeded thus far only on behalf of chimpanzees because such “clients” were readily available. Success with chimpanzees would eventually lead those others named being considered persons also. One animal/fish at a time, of course.

Four chimpanzees and three lawsuits thus far.
The first involved Tommy. A 26 year old chimpanzee. He resides in Gloversville, N.Y. in a small shack owned by a man who sells and rentsreindeers. Tommy’s room is a small concrete cage in the shack. The shed is located on an old trailer lot.

Tommy’s owner says he is well cared for. Tommy has a colored television set.

Then came Kiko. A former Hollywood performer. He was known theatrically as “The Karate Chimp.” Kiko is owned by a New York couple and lives in a cage.


Now the real stars of the three litigations. Hercules and Leo. They are locked up at the New York University at Stony Brook. Hercules and Leo are used for locomotion research.


The New York Courts in the Tommy and Kiko cases came to the same result, differently arrived at. One Judge said in effect not my headache, let the appellate court deal with it. The other said chimpanzees could not be persons because they did not have the mental capacity to make decisions involving conformity to the law.


Both cases are on appeal.


Attorney Wise’s argument in the lack of mental capacity case is what about humans in society who cannot choose to conform to the law. Those who lack capacity. People such as infants, coma patients, those with profound disabilities, severe brain damage cases, and dementia.


Attorney Wise sought a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Hercules and Leo. A writ of habeas corpus requires a person to be released from unlawful imprisonment. The key word is “person.”


A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice signed an order for habeas corpus. “Person” was a part of the language in the order signed by the Judge. The case was set down for a May 27 hearing. Soon thereafter, the Judge signed an amended order striking out the words writ of habeas corpus. The hearing still will be held, however.


One hundred fifty years ago, Darwin said the difference between man and other animals is one of degree, and not of kind. “Other animals” and “degree”
being significant verbiage in Darwin’s statement.


The issue is not local. It has already been dealt with in some fashion worldwide.


Switzerland in 1992 amended its Constitution to describe animals as “beings” and not “things.” New Zealand in 1995 granted basic rights to the members of the Great Ape species and forbade the use of animals in research and teaching. Germany in 2000 amended its Constitution so as to guarantee rights to animals.


Balearic Island, a province of Spain, in 2007 granted “personhood” to Great Apes. Spain’s Parliament in 2008 passed a resolution saying Great Apes have a right to
life and freedom.


Finally in 2010, the European Union on behalf of its 28 member nations banned the testing of Great Apes.


A new and not new ball game. New in the United States. Blame the chimpanzee cases presently in the courts on Citizens United. Attorney Wise relies strongly on if corporations can be people, then so too chimps.


Two thoughts. The first is there is as much humanity in a chimpanzee as there is in a corporation. Perhaps more. Second, what a waste of time and expense.