Does a human being have the right to imprison two grown chimpanzees under their care so that they may use them for experimental aspects of their research, whatever that may be? According to US Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe, two chimps being held in the care of Stony Brook University on Long Island – Hercules and Leo – where they are being used as medical experiments, are worthy of basic rights. The judge signed and order and issued a petition that would allow the chimps some basic human legal rights to fight for their freedom to leave their imprisonment in favor of a Florida sanctuary for animals much like themselves. The judge did not grant the chimps legal person status, but she did sign a petition that gives them the ability to fight for their freedoms without intending to provide them or consider them humans.
After the paperwork was signed and issued, many that oppose the idea of giving chimpanzees legal rights have stepped forward to state their opinions, which tend to boil down to the point that chimps are animals and that this judge is taking it upon herself to give them human rights. They argue that this is inappropriate and unfounded. Others have stepped forward in support claiming that chimps are intelligent enough and enough like humans to afford some basic rights.
The chimps advocates are not looking to get too in-depth, however. They are simply looking for a way to free the chimps from what they consider unlawful captivity and medical testing so that they can be taken to a large sanctuary for animals of their nature in South Florida where they are free to live and roan islands that house other chimps just like them.
Those opposed to the order have said that these animals certainly deserve protection against what is happening to them, but that they do not deserve rights, as a human would be given. The judge has since amended her decision to make it clear she is not considering the chimps humans at all, but that she does believe that they have the right to advocacy on their behalf.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images