Quote:Chimps deserve human rights, activists argue in New York
Chimpanzees should be granted the same basic human rights accorded to young children, animal rights activists argued in a potentially momentous court hearing in New York yesterday.
In a courtroom packed to overflowing, lawyers for Nonhuman Rights Project argued that two chimps being held by a New York university should be granted a writ of habeas corpus – personhood – that would make it unlawful to keep them in captivity.
The two-hour hearing at the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan is the latest move in a two-year legal battle to win legal recognition for chimps as “autonomous and self-determining beings” who have the right to bodily liberty.
Two chimps were named in the case as “Hercules and Leo” who are being held in captivity by the Stony Brook University, in New York State for use in an anatomical research programme, but a decision would apply to all chimps – and perhaps beyond to elephants, dolphins and whales.
Christopher Coulston, the New York assistant attorney general who is defending the university, argued that a decision grant chimps human rights that would set a dangerous precedent “for the release of other animals” housed in zoos, educational institutions, farms or even pets.