Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers' Brief

London: Routledge (forthcoming)
Abstract
In December 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in the New York State Supreme Court on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee living alone in a cage in a shed in rural New York (Barlow, 2017). Under animal welfare laws, Tommy’s owners, the Laverys, were doing nothing illegal by keeping him in those conditions. Nonetheless, the NhRP argued that given the cognitive, social, and emotional capacities of chimpanzees, Tommy’s confinement constituted a profound wrong that demanded remedy by the courts. Soon thereafter, the NhRP filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of Kiko, another chimpanzee housed alone in Niagara Falls, and Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees held in research facilities at Stony Brook University. Thus began the legal struggle to move these chimpanzees from captivity to a sanctuary, an effort that has led the NhRP to argue in multiple courts before multiple judges. The central point of contention has been whether Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo have legal rights. To date, no judge has been willing to issue a writ of habeas corpus on their behalf. Such a ruling would mean that these chimpanzees have rights that confinement might violate. Instead, the judges have argued that chimpanzees cannot be bearers of legal rights because they are not, and cannot be persons. In this book we argue that chimpanzees are persons because they are autonomous.
Keywords animal ethics  legal ethics  chimpanzees  habeas corpus  animal rights  conceptions of personhood  persons and rights
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