Animal Rights Group Granted Hearing Because Chimpanzees Are ‘Legal Persons’

This story is really bananas (sorry).

AP Photo/

Someone needs to alert Jane Goodall because, if this animal rights group not named PETA has its way, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ will carry a little more weight.

It’s being called “the first case of its kind in the world,” which is to say “just when you thought you have seen everything comes this mess.”

According to NPR via Science magazine, New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe in Manhattan issued an order late Monday, called a writ of habeas corpus, which requires the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island to defend its right in court to keep the primates, Hercules and Leo. You know, chimps used for research.

So, what’s the monumental act here?

In case you were absent during that exciting Latin class in college, a writ of habeas corpus requires a person to be released from unlawful imprisonment. So these chimpanzees are being held hostage and are now considered people because “they are autonomous, intelligent creatures.” 

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), the group that filed the case on behalf of the chimps, said in a statement it believed that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe’s order “implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are ‘persons.'”

But Richard Cupp, a law professor at Pepperdine University who opposes personhood for animals, told Science, “It would be quite surprising if the judge intended to make a momentous substantive finding that chimpanzees are legal persons if the judge has not yet heard the other side’s arguments.”

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apesOf course, Jaffe did not explain the reason for issuing the order in the brief decision, but perhaps the bigger question is the perception of political correctness.

Personhood? Habeas Corpus? Are we so focused on civil rights these days (for good reason) that we are now extending that right to primates too? Maybe the judge saw ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ had some awful dreams, and developed a case of paranoia regarding a certain Caesar.

I mean, look at that ape — not what you would consider “kid friendly.”

The hearing, in which the university will be represented by the New York state Attorney General’s office, is scheduled for May 6.