Dr. Abigail Philips has been working with chimpanzee Solomon since he was an infant, helping him communicate using a touch-screen computer. But it’s time for Solomon to retire, and, in any case, Dr. Philips’s lab is out of funds.
So it seems like a godsend when media tycoon Walter Drake offers to donate $10 million on the one condition that he can take over the ownership of Solomon and retire him to his own home, promising the very best of living conditions.
Too late we learn that Drake isn’t interested in Solomon; only in his heart. His real plan is to replace his own failing heart with Solomon’s.
Drake’s estranged mother steps in to try to stop her son killing Solomon. She hires a top-tier trial attorney to take on the most difficult case of his career: obtaining legal protection for the chimpanzee.
The outcome won’t affect only Solomon. It will set a precedent. If Solomon loses, this may open the door for thousands of other chimpanzees losing their hearts to heartless humans.
That’s the basic plot of Solomon’s Freedom, a novel by Dennis Meredith, which explores a fictional case for legal personhood for a chimpanzee.
Meredith wrote to us about his inspiration for the novel and his interest in legal personhood for nonhuman animals, saying:
The idea first arose in 2005, when I began exploring the new insights that chimpanzee research was yielding into their intelligence. The project became more personal when I had the privilege of spending some weeks with psychologist Sally Boysen at Ohio State, watching her amazing, personable chimpanzees master numerical skills.
But the case for legal personhood for chimpanzees really crystallized for me when I began reading the seminal writings of [NhRP President] Steven Wise. I included his books and papers in the list of sources that informed the novel. In fact, his work influenced me so profoundly that I decided to quote him by name in the novel.
There have been so many instances where fiction has advanced a cause by using vivid storytelling. I hope Solomon’s Freedom does just that for the cause of obtaining justice for our closest living primate relatives, as well as the many other species with complex cognitive abilities.
Meredith is offering NhRP supporters a free e-book of Solomon’s Freedom. It’s a great read and you can download it here.
And many thanks to the author for his interest in Steve’s work and for using his storytelling abilities to explore the importance of nonhuman rights.