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Nonhuman Rights Project President Steven M. Wise Advocates for Nonhuman Rights in New TED Talk

By Lauren Choplin

The Nonhuman Rights Project issued the following press release this morning:


Nonhuman Rights President Steven M. Wise advocates for Nonhuman Rights in New TED Talk

TED Talk released one week before first-of-its-kind hearing for imprisoned chimpanzee plaintiffs

May 20, 2015 — In a new TED Talk released today on, NhRP President Steven M. Wise sets out what TED curators call “a bold idea”: that self-aware, autonomous nonhuman animals deserve to be recognized as legal persons with certain fundamental rights.

“For centuries there has been a great legal wall that separates legal things from legal persons,” Wise says in his talk. “On one hand, legal things are invisible to judges. They don’t count in law. They don’t have any legal rights. They don’t have the capacity for legal rights. They are the slaves. On the other side of that legal wall are the legal persons. Legal persons are very visible to judges. They count in law. They may have many rights. They have the capacity for an infinite number of rights. And they are the masters. Right now, all nonhuman animals are legal things. All human beings are legal persons.”

Wise’s 14-minute TED Talk highlights the injustice of chimpanzees, who have been scientifically proven to possess those qualities sufficient to grant human beings fundamental right to bodily liberty, nevertheless being treated as things who lack the capacity for any legal rights at all.

“[Chimpanzees] remember what happened yesterday. They can anticipate tomorrow—which is why it’s so terrible to imprison a chimpanzee, especially alone,” Wise says. “It’s the things that we do to our worst criminals, and we do [them] to chimpanzees without even thinking about it.”

Part of a panel entitled “Radical Reframe” at the TED2015 conference in Vancouver, Canada in March of 2015, Wise’s TED Talk details how the NhRP is challenging the legality of the imprisonment of four chimpanzees in New York State by filing three petitions for common law writs of habeas corpus on their behalf.

The TED2015 conference featured speakers who presented on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the alleviation of poverty to innovations in storytelling. As the leading global figure in animal rights jurisprudence, Wise joins the ranks of other prominent figures such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Dr. Jane Goodall (a founding Board Member of the NhRP) whose talks the TED curators have previously selected for release on To watch the talk, click here.


The release of Wise’s TED Talk comes exactly one week ahead of the first-ever hearing on an Order to Show Cause issued in a habeas corpus proceeding on behalf of imprisoned nonhuman animals, this time in the case of Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees being used in locomotion research at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Long Island, NY.

Justice Barbara Jaffe recently ordered the University to appear in court on May 27th to justify the chimpanzees’ detainment after the NhRP filed a petition in March for an Order to Show Cause and Writ of Habeas Corpus on behalf of its chimpanzee plaintiffs in the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan. This is the first time that a Court has issued an Order to Show Cause in a habeas corpus proceeding on behalf of a nonhuman animal. The hearing is open to the public.

WHAT: Oral argument in the case of chimpanzees Hercules and Leo
WHEN: Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: New York County Supreme Court
80 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013
WHO: The hearing is before Justice Barbara Jaffe and is open to the public.
CASE:Case Index No.: 152736/15
Case Name: The Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., on behalf of Hercules and Leo, Petitioner, against Samuel L. Stanley Jr. MD, as President of State University of New York at Stony Brook a/k/a/ Stony Brook University, and State University of New York at Stony Brook a/k/a Stony Brook University, Respondents.

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