The New York Appeals Court has a different type of debate on its plate today with Attorney Steve Wise attempting to make a case that animals with certain human-like qualities, like a chimpanzee, deserve basic rights. It’s been suggested to Wise that animals have rights and he might be better served walking down the avenue of animal rights with the chimp, Tommy, who he is trying to free from captivity, according to News Max on Oct. 8.
Chimp personhood, an argument debated in court for animals with human-like qualities.
Basically Wise sees Tommy the chimp as falling somewhere on the spectrum between human rights and animal rights. Because the chimp has some human qualities, he would like to see animals, like Tommy, fall under a different set of rules, reports News Science Magazine.
Wise argues that Tommy is kept in captivity, which is unfair considering that the chimp shares some human qualities and you wouldn’t cage a human. He wants this chimp, who currently lives in Upstate New York, to be released to a place in Florida that rescues chimpanzees and puts them in a habitat where they run free.
Wise’s Nonhuman Rights Project would end up protecting chimps, gorillas, elephants, dolphins and other animals that have human-like qualities. He wants them to live under different rights than other animals that are caged.
Tommy lives in a cage, but it is a seven room cage with plenty of toys. He is cared for around the clock by people who care about him. This chimp has special needs, said his owner Patrick Lavery of Gloversville. Tommy was an entertainment chimp that was placed with Lavery several years ago.
Lavery believes if you put Tommy in that habitat with other chimps, he won’t survive. He’s never been associated with other chimps and “he could get hurt if he was in the wrong atmosphere,” said Lavery.
Wise wants to see animals like the chimp fall under rules where caging them would be illegal. This personhood parigram would weaken if it was extended to animals, said Richard Cupp, a professor at Pepperdine Law School. He is a noted author on the legal and moral status of animals.
Rights come with responsibilities, notes Cupp. Several Judges have also brought this point up in the debate over changing the laws for certain animals to have personhood rights. Tommy’s welfare falls under the laws that see to it that animals don’t get mistreated. One of the judges suggested that trying to get Tommy into that habitat in Florida might best be addressed under the animal laws.
Wise maintains that it is unlawful to confine a human being to a cage. He wants to see the same type of rights be passed down to include the animals that show human-like qualities. While the debate is on, it looks as if Wise’s request for law changes might be a hard sell.