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Monkey business

If chimpanzees' cognitive thinking makes them legal persons, then where does man begin and animal end, asks Richard Easton

19 March 2014

If chimpanzees' cognitive thinking makes them legal persons, then where does man begin and animal end, asks Richard Easton

They share 99 per cent of our DNA; they speak to us through sign language; they grieve; they laugh; and yet they are mere 'things': our closest relatives, chimpanzees, are - like all animals except man - property, whereas we are persons.

A pioneering claim to free four chimpanzees in New York State might, however, make our nearest animal kin our legal equals. But, if chimps become 'persons' with rights, why should not dogs, horses, pigs and cows? Or would a menagerie of rights bearers undermine the whole notion of human rights?

In early December last year, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NHRP) petitioned the New York Supreme Courts of Fulton County, Niagara County and Suffolk County for writs of habeas corpus to compel the release of four chimpanzees...

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