New York court to consider whether a chimpanzee is a 'person'

New York court to consider whether a chimpanzee is a ‘person’

The appellate division of the New York Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in a case about whether two chimpanzees deserve the rights of “personhood.”

Tommy and Kiko, two chimpanzees reported to be in their late 30s, will be represented by the Nonhuman Rights Project in court on Thursday. In its petition before the New York court, the Nonhuman Rights Project asked that a chimpanzee not be considered a “legal thing to be possessed” but a “cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

“The affidavits submitted in support of this Petition establish that chimpanzees possess such complex cognitive abilities as autonomy, self-determination, self-consciousness, awareness of the past, anticipation of the future and the ability to make choices; display complex emotions such as empathy; and construct diverse cultures,” the Nonhuman Rights Project petition argued. “The possession of these characteristics is sufficient to establish common law personhood and the consequential fundamental right to bodily liberty. The accompanying affidavits and memorandum of law establish that extending legal personhood to Petitioner is strongly supported by law, science, and history.”

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