Are chimps deserving of some human rights?
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    Posting Addict KimPossible's Avatar
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    Default Are chimps deserving of some human rights?

    Now lets take out of the fact that the chimp's living conditions are better now, then they used to be, because overall, that does not get to the question i really want to debate. What i want to debate is if chimps are deseving of any 'human-like' protections that are typically not given to other animals. Is owning a chimp different than owning a rabbit? Yes or no? Do they approach a level of personhood that makes them worthy of a more strict consideration of the environment they are living in when overseen by humans?

    Interestingly enough (for me) this chimp and its owners don't live that far away from where i grew up.

    Chimps Are People, Too? Lawsuit Will Test That Question : The Two-Way : NPR

    Is a chimp, living as a pet in the home of Patrick and Diane Lavery in Gloversville, N.Y., really enslaved and entitled to his freedom? Does the 26-year-old Tommy, who scientists argue is cognitively similar to humans, deserve some of the same rights as Homo sapiens?

    Those questions are at the center of a lawsuit (pdf) filed in the State of New York Supreme Court in Fulton County, N.Y., on Monday.

    As The New York Times puts it, "this is no stunt." Instead it is the culmination of a legal strategy that's been years in the making. The lawsuit was filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project, which has been working to change the common law status of some "non-human animals" from "things" to "persons."

    The lawsuit uses a cornerstone of the legal system to seek this change. The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a writ of habeas corpus, which historically compels a judge to call upon a person's captor to explain why he has a right to hold the person captive.

    "More specifically, our suits are based on a case that was fought in England in 1772, when an American slave, James Somerset, who had been taken to London by his owner, escaped, was recaptured and was being held in chains on a ship that was about to set sail for the slave markets of Jamaica," Michael Mountain, of the Nonhuman Rights Project wrote in a blog post. "With help from a group of abolitionist attorneys, Somerset's godparents filed a writ of habeas corpus on Somerset's behalf in order to challenge Somerset's classification as a legal thing, and the case went before the Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, Lord Mansfield. In what became one of the most important trials in Anglo-American history, Lord Mansfield ruled that Somerset was not a piece of property, but instead a legal person, and he set him free."

    The motion filed on Monday argues that Chimps are being treated by the law as slaves, but it also argues that the law right now already gives legal personhood to nonhumans: Domestic animals, for example, who are the beneficiaries of trusts and, of course, it also extends some human legal rights to corporations.

    Also, the motion argues, leading scientists say that "... Chimpanzees possess such complex cognitive abilities as autonomy, self-determination, self-consciousness, awareness of past, anticipation for the future and the ability to make choices; display complex emotions such as empathy; and construct diverse cultures. The possession of these characteristics is sufficient to establish common law personhood and the consequential fundamental right to bodily liberty."

    The Nonhuman Rights Project is asking the judge to order Tommy free and that he be sent to a sanctuary where he can be properly taken care of.

    The Times spoke to the man who keeps Tommy:

    "Patrick C. Lavery, the owner of Circle L Trailer Sales in Gloversville, where Tommy lives, said he heard about the petition from reporters' telephone calls. He said from his home in Florida that he had complied with all state and federal regulations, that Tommy had a spacious cage 'with tons of toys,' and that he had been trying to place him in sanctuaries, but that they had no room. He said he had rescued the chimp from his previous home, where he was badly treated.
    "'People ought to use common sense,' he said. Of the Nonhuman Rights Project, a group he was not aware of, he said, 'If they were to see where this chimp lived for the first 30 years of his life, they would jump up and down for joy about where he is now.'"
    David Favre, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law and an expert on animal law, tells Reuters that this is the first time a habeas petition has been filed on behalf of a non-human animal. That means this is novel and predicting an outcome could be tricky.

    The Nonhuman Rights Project also said it was filing similar suits in two other New York jurisdictions seeking "identical relief on behalf of chimpanzees unlawfully detained."
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    No. They should be treated like any other animal. Not cruelly, but like an animal because that is what they are.

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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    I think that animals have a right to be treated in a way that is appropriate to their needs. I don't know a lot about chimps, but I believe that keeping them in a cage in a house with some toys is probably not appropriate for the chimp, although I do have some sympathy that it sounds like this couple "rescued" the chimp from a bad situation and are doing what they can as a stop gap measure until they can get him into a sanctuary. I don't think that chimps really qualify for "human" rights though. And assuming that they do qualify, what does that mean in a real world scenario? Right now the lawsuit is alleging that the couple is keeping him in "slavery", but what is the alternative? You can't just let a chimp go free in the middle of the US; that could be very dangerous to both humans and the chimp. And even if you could return him to his natural habitat, who knows if, having been raised in captivity, he is equipped to survive on his own in the wild. So from a pratical standpoint, I think that he's certainly not "competent" to be released under his own recognizance, so that leads us back to providing him with a habitat that is appropriate to his needs, which would almost certainly include some sort of captivity, such as a sanctuary.

    ETA: Have any of you ever seen the documentary "Project Nim?" It's sooooo sad. It's sort of relevent in that it is the true story of what happened to a chimp when humans tried to raise him as if he was human. Chimps are not human, and trying to raise them as such is not doing them any favors. That doesn't mean exactly that they have no rights under the law, but I can't see saying that they have "human rights" because their needs are different.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/07/20/138467...-very-sad-life
    Last edited by Alissa_Sal; 12-05-2013 at 02:41 PM.
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    Posting Addict KimPossible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alissa_Sal View Post
    I think that animals have a right to be treated in a way that is appropriate to their needs.
    I think this is the tricky part....because, correct me if I'm wrong, there is no distinction, legally speaking between say, rabbits and chimps. Who gets to oversee and define the needs of each individual animal.

    I can sort of see a case for doing something in regards to chimpanzees because surely, given their cognitive abilities to keep one under such conditions is definitely cruel. I'm pretty sure studies show that chimpanzees have the cognitive abilities equivalent of a 6 year old.

    Legally, there should be a way to do something about this IMO and I think brushing it off as "just an animal" is not good enough.

    While i don't really know if i'm keen on giving chimps personhood....those bolded paragraphs really spoke to me. I guess i don't think they are like 'any other animal'...while theyare not human, they might be worth of a class of their own somehow. Animals yes...but, animals with...distinction? I don't know. Their self awareness is not the equivalent of a common pet's.

    And i don't think the suggestion would be to just release them into the wild.

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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KimPossible View Post
    I think this is the tricky part....because, correct me if I'm wrong, there is no distinction, legally speaking between say, rabbits and chimps. Who gets to oversee and define the needs of each individual animal.

    I can sort of see a case for doing something in regards to chimpanzees because surely, given their cognitive abilities to keep one under such conditions is definitely cruel. I'm pretty sure studies show that chimpanzees have the cognitive abilities equivalent of a 6 year old.

    Legally, there should be a way to do something about this IMO and I think brushing it off as "just an animal" is not good enough.

    While i don't really know if i'm keen on giving chimps personhood....those bolded paragraphs really spoke to me. I guess i don't think they are like 'any other animal'...while theyare not human, they might be worth of a class of their own somehow. Animals yes...but, animals with...distinction? I don't know. Their self awareness is not the equivalent of a common pet's.

    And i don't think the suggestion would be to just release them into the wild.
    But there's the rub, isn't it? From a practical standpoint, what does it mean that they have personhood? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the article, but we're they alleging that the chimp was being kept "as a slave" because he was being kept...er....for lack of a better way to express it, without his consent? Otherwise, why "slavery?" If they grant him personhood, do they then have to turn around and declare him incompetent to see after his own needs in order to continue keeping him in some form of captivity? And in that case, what is the point of the whole exercise?

    ETA: What I am trying to say is that he doesn't have to be granted personhood if all we are trying to do is move him to a habitat that is appropriate for a chimp. The fact that they are trying to grant personhood implies to me some sort of autonomy, but in reality I don't think that we are actually able to grant the chimp with autonomy - I assume he would still be held in captivity, just captivity that is more appropriate to a chimp, such as a sanctuary.

    In regards to keeping an animal in a manner consistent with his needs, I don't think that is a problem from a legal stand point. I think we recognize that different animals have different needs and it is cruel to keep an animal in a habitat that does not fit its needs, even if we don't specifically spell out in the law that each animal has a right to X, Y, and Z. I mean, this is going to sound like a very silly example, but a fish needs a bowl, where as a puppy needs space to move around and play. We may not actually spell out in the law that it's illegal to keep a puppy trapped in a dry aquarium, but if animal enforcement officers found a puppy that had been trapped in a small bowl or aquarium I'm sure they would remove the animal from the environment. I don't think we have to go so far as to declare that puppies have human rights in order to determine that they have a right to be kept in an environment that is compatible with their needs. I guess I'm not entirely understanding what makes chimps and puppies different in this debate.
    Last edited by Alissa_Sal; 12-05-2013 at 03:30 PM.
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    Posting Addict KimPossible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alissa_Sal View Post
    But there's the rub, isn't it? From a practical standpoint, what does it mean that they have personhood? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the article, but we're they alleging that the chimp was being kept "as a slave" because he was being kept...er....for lack of a better way to express it, without his consent? Otherwise, why "slavery?" If they grant him personhood, do they then have to turn around and declare him incompetent to see after his own needs in order to continue keeping him in some form of captivity? And in that case, what is the point of the whole exercise?
    I think what they are trying to do is leverage whatever existing laws there are...to find a route to better treatment (and probably to set a precedent going forward).


    ETA: What I am trying to say is that he doesn't have to be granted personhood if all we are trying to do is move him to a habitat that is appropriate for a chimp. The fact that they are trying to grant personhood implies to me some sort of autonomy, but in reality I don't think that we are actually able to grant the chimp with autonomy - I assume he would still be held in captivity, just captivity that is more appropriate to a chimp, such as a sanctuary.
    I don't know....are there laws? Not that its the best resource but the group behind this lawsuit seems to suggest there are not. They claim his treatment, as it stands right now, is perfectly legal. So the quesiton is, should it be? And if not, how would be laws be defined? How would you differentiate between keeping a rabbit in a clean cage and a chimpanzee? Or is there no reason to bother.

    In regards to keeping an animal in a manner consistent with his needs, I don't think that is a problem from a legal stand point. I think we recognize that different animals have different needs and it is cruel to keep an animal in a habitat that does not fit its needs, even if we don't specifically spell out in the law that each animal has a right to X, Y, and Z.
    I'd be skeptical that if the monkey is kept in a clean cage that there is any existing law that could be used to declare this unfit. I would like to see what that law is.

    I mean, this is going to sound like a very silly example, but a fish needs a bowl, where as a puppy needs space to move around and play. We may not actually spell out in the law that it's illegal to keep a puppy trapped in a dry aquarium, but if animal enforcement officers found a puppy that had been trapped in a small bowl or aquarium I'm sure they would remove the animal from the environment. I don't think we have to go so far as to declare that puppies have human rights in order to determine that they have a right to be kept in an environment that is compatible with their needs. I guess I'm not entirely understanding what makes chimps and puppies different in this debate.
    Well maybe this is where the issue of ownership comes in. Because if we are, by law, allowed to own chimpanzees (which is seems that we are...at least in NY state? I don't know the finer details of this)...what type of environment could possibly be fit for a chimp in a typical household. Or how does one successfully argue that this environment is not fit for this animal. Its not really a matter of space alone...as we do keep other pets in probably similar ratios for cages/aquariums....its an issue of cognitive awareness. I think thats where the problem is or at least thats what this group is trying to argue.
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    Posting Addict KimPossible's Avatar
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    Also, about not releasing it into the wild....even if it has personhood..that would not be proper care, anymore so than dropping a child off on the corner and never returning for them. A child is a person, just not one capable of caring for themselves.

    So you can still honor ones personhood, without 'setting them free'.

    Now i'm not saying i am a proponent of giving a chimpanzee any type of personhood (although you could convince me that some distinction needs to be made for high functioning animals)..I'm just saying why i don't think granting it personhood automatically means you need to let it go and die because it can't care for itself.
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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KimPossible View Post
    I don't know....are there laws? Not that its the best resource but the group behind this lawsuit seems to suggest there are not. They claim his treatment, as it stands right now, is perfectly legal. So the quesiton is, should it be? And if not, how would be laws be defined? How would you differentiate between keeping a rabbit in a clean cage and a chimpanzee? Or is there no reason to bother.
    If there aren't laws that state that an animal should be kept in an environment that is consistent with that species' typical needs, then I would be all for a law that states that. Certainly I think there is a reason to bother - it's cruel to keep an animal in a habitat that is not suited to the needs of that species. I guess I'm just hung up on the whole "why personhood?" peice of it. Because again, I would say that no matter which type animal we're talking about, they should be kept in a manner that is consistent with their species needs, but I still don't entirely see how bestowing "personhood" on the animal plays in to that.

    Well maybe this is where the issue of ownership comes in. Because if we are, by law, allowed to own chimpanzees (which is seems that we are...at least in NY state? I don't know the finer details of this)...what type of environment could possibly be fit for a chimp in a typical household. Or how does one successfully argue that this environment is not fit for this animal. Its not really a matter of space alone...as we do keep other pets in probably similar ratios for cages/aquariums....its an issue of cognitive awareness. I think thats where the problem is or at least thats what this group is trying to argue.
    Maybe a better solution would be to make a law that says that private owners aren't allowed to own chimps? I know there are other types of non-domesticated animals that are against the law to own. I wouldn't be opposed to putting chimps on that list.
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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KimPossible View Post
    Also, about not releasing it into the wild....even if it has personhood..that would not be proper care, anymore so than dropping a child off on the corner and never returning for them. A child is a person, just not one capable of caring for themselves.

    So you can still honor ones personhood, without 'setting them free'.

    Now i'm not saying i am a proponent of giving a chimpanzee any type of personhood (although you could convince me that some distinction needs to be made for high functioning animals)..I'm just saying why i don't think granting it personhood automatically means you need to let it go and die because it can't care for itself.
    But with humans, the assumption is that over the normal course of the child's lifetime they will be granted autonomy once they reach adulthood, or else if they cannot (due to disability) I believe that has to be established specifically in court. Presumably no chimp of any age can be given autonomy, at least not within the US. We don't have the ecosystem for it.
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    Posting Addict KimPossible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alissa_Sal View Post
    If there aren't laws that state that an animal should be kept in an environment that is consistent with that species' typical needs, then I would be all for a law that states that.
    I think that is really generic and too open for interpretation, don't you? How do you define what a species typical needs are considering that its taken completely out of its normal environment. THink of all the animals that people keep as pets.

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