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Philosophers Offer Support For Chimpanzee Rights Cases

By Lauren Choplin

Philosophers Offer Support For Chimpanzee Rights Cases As Nonhuman Rights Project Seeks To Appeal To New York’s Highest Court

– Experts in animal ethics, animal political theory, the philosophy of animal cognition and behavior, and the philosophy of biology urge the Court of Appeals to recognize chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko as persons –

Feb. 26, 2018—New York, NY—After the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a motion for permission to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals in the cases of captive chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, a group of prominent philosophers submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the NhRP’s efforts to secure recognition of their clients’ legal personhood and rights.

The NhRP argues in its Memorandum of Law, filed on Friday, that the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department’s June 2017 ruling requires review by the state’s highest court, not only because it conflicts with New York’s common law habeas corpus statute and previous rulings of the Court of Appeals, the First Department, and other Appellate Departments on issues pertaining to common law personhood and habeas corpus relief, but also “based on the novelty, difficulty, importance, and effect of the legal and public policy issues raised.”

Engaging directly with a core issue raised by the NhRP’s appeal—the question of who is a “person” capable of possessing any legal rights—the philosophers’ brief maintains that the First Department’s ruling “uses a number of incompatible conceptions of person which, when properly understood, are either philosophically inadequate or in fact compatible with Kiko and Tommy’s personhood.” The philosophers who authored the brief are:

“We submit this brief in our shared interest in ensuring a more just co-existence with other animals who live in our communities,” they write. “We strongly urge this Court, in keeping with the best philosophical standards of rational judgment and ethical standards of justice, to recognize that, as nonhuman persons, Kiko and Tommy should be granted a writ of habeas corpus and their detainers should have the burden of showing the lawful justification of their current confinement.”

Tommy is a male chimpanzee whom the NhRP discovered living alone in a cage in a shed on a used trailer lot along Route 30 in Gloversville, New York.

Kiko is a male chimpanzee, who, to the best of the NhRP’s knowledge, is held in captivity in a cage in a cement storefront attached to a home in a residential area in Niagara Falls, New York.

The NhRP has been fighting since 2013 to free them to Save the Chimps sanctuary, where they can live with other chimpanzees in a more natural environment where their fundamental right to bodily liberty will be respected.

The NhRP expects the Court to rule on its motion for permission to appeal in 6-8 weeks.

Click here for Tommy’s court case timeline and here for Kiko’s court case timeline.

The NhRP’s Motion
The NhRP’s Memorandum of Law
Philosophers’ brief
Philosophers’ Motion
Affirmation in Support of Philosophers’ Motion

Tommy Record on Appeal (Vol. 1 of 2)
Tommy Record on Appeal (Vol. 2 of 2)
Kiko Record on Appeal (Vol. 1 of 2)
Kiko Record on Appeal (Vol. 2 of 2) 

CASE NO. Tommy: Index. No. 162358/15 (New York County)/Kiko: Index. No. 150149/16 (New York County)

CASE NAMES:  THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of TOMMY, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- PATRICK C. LAVERY, individually and as an officer of Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc., DIANE L. LAVERY, and CIRCLE L TRAILER SALES, INC., Respondents-Respondents.

THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of KIKO, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- CARMEN PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., CHRISTIE E. PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., and THE PRIMATE SANCTUARY, INC., Respondents-Respondents.

Media Contact:
Lauren Choplin
Communications Director

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About the Nonhuman Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) works to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals through litigation, advocacy, and education. Our mission is to change the legal status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them. Our current plaintiffs are members of species who have been scientifically proven to be autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. We are working with teams of attorneys on four continents to develop campaigns to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals that are suited to the legal systems of these countries. We filed our first cases in December of 2013, and our work is the subject of the 2016 Pennebaker Hegedus/HBO documentary film Unlocking the Cage, which has been seen by millions around the world.

About NhRP President Steven M. Wise
Steven M. Wise began his mission to gain rights for nonhuman animals in 1985. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for four decades and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise taught the first class in “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and has taught “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Stanford Law School, as well as the University of Miami, St. Thomas, and John Marshall Law Schools, and is currently teaching “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Lewis and Clark Law School and Vermont Law School. He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for AnimalsDrawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal RightsThough the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. His TED TALK from the TED2015 Conference in Vancouver, Canada was released in May of 2015, and has over one million views.

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