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U.S. judge temporarily grants habeas corpus to chimps in step forward for animal rights

Animal rights

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(NaturalNews) Two chimpanzees from Long Island New York are about to have their day in court. Legal representatives for the two chimps say the animals have been "unlawfully detained" by Stony Brook University.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe considers the chimpanzees to be "legal persons" in the eyes of the law. With the help of legal representation, the chimps are being empowered with rights of their own and could ultimately be freed from captivity by the court.

Justice Barbara Jaffe has granted a "writ of habeas corpus" and is ordering officials at Stony Brook University to show cause for why they are holding the chimps, Hercules and Leo, in captivity.

Judge retracts her statement which temporarily made the chimps "legal persons"

When word got around that a couple of chimpanzees had been granted human rights by a court of law, Justice Jaffe clarified her statements, striking down the "writ of habeas corpus" which theoretically gave the chimps the same rights as humans. Striking down her initial wording, she said it was simply a way to formally direct the university officials to the courtroom to present their case.
The Nonhuman Rights Project, which signed off on the judge's order, saw a first-time glimpse of what they work so hard for - court recognized animal rights. They believe that some animals, like chimps, are "legal persons" with the right of "bodily liberty."

Do chimps have the same "bodily liberty" rights as humans?

The question being raised is this: Are chimps the property of human owners or do the animals have the right to own their own body and liberty? Does an animal have the same rights as humans? If they are being harmed, abused, or detained, can they be represented in court and ultimately be freed?

The Nonhuman Rights Project seeks to free Hercules and Leo from their cages at Stony Brook in hopes they will be released to an animal sanctuary in Florida. However, if the chimps are indeed property of Stony Brook and no harm can be proven, then can the court order the animals be taken away from their owners?

"Nonhuman animals do not have legal rights any more than they have legal responsibilities," said Bob Kohn, a lawyer from Manhattan, who opposes efforts to give human rights to chimps and other animals. "For a court to hold otherwise would have tremendous adverse legal and moral implications for mankind."

Those who support animal rights say it's not about declaring that animals are people. Nonhuman Rights Project director Natalie K. Prosin says it's more so about recognizing that animals are "autonomous beings, who are self-aware and self-directed."

Agreeing with Prosin is Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School scholar, who believes that habeas corpus should be available to animals to test the treatment and confinement of "other beings whose capacities are limited but who are potentially capable of bearing rights."

Speaking in Science Magazine, Prosin said, "This is a big step forward to getting what we are ultimately seeking: The right to bodily liberty for chimpanzees and other cognitively complex animals. We got our foot in the door. And no matter what happens, that door can never be completely shut again."

While the incident is a huge step forward for animal rights, the judge could very well hear Stony Brook's side and ultimately rule they have the right to keep the chimps in their lab.




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