As our supporters know, litigation is an integral part of the NhRP’s work. The result of decades of meticulous legal research begun by NhRP President Steven M. Wise, furthered by a small army of legal volunteers, and realized by an indefatigable legal team, our unique nonhuman animal rights lawsuits rely on terms some people understandably find intimidating, like legal personhood, bodily liberty, and habeas corpus.
But not 10-year-old Reeve Johnston, a student at Somersfield Academy in Bermuda who recently reached out to us about a project on chimpanzee rights he was working on for a school conference called “What Matters.” As Reeve told us, he began to care deeply about chimpanzees several years ago after he saw a group of them “packed together” in a zoo where there was “not enough freedom for them … I think it’s not fair. If we should have the simple rights to autonomy and bodily liberty, why can’t they?”
NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider had the pleasure of talking to Reeve for the video he created for his project, which we think is excellent:
Reeve is absolutely right to frame the argument in support of nonhuman rights as a matter of basic fairness and equality. In this sense, our litigation is quite simple. Based on all we know about chimpanzees and how, as autonomous beings, they suffer when deprived of their freedom, they deserve to have their freedom protected as a matter of right, just as human beings do.
In his video, Reeve also points to the irrationality and injustice of how human beings treat chimpanzees and other nonhuman animals: “If only we shared our earth sensibly,” he says, “we wouldn’t need to have places like the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone for our closest cousins to have somewhere safe to live.”
We are honored Reeve supports our work and moved by his passion for helping chimpanzees, which he hopes to continue doing as he gets older. When we asked about his future plans, he tells us he’d also like to become an actor and help young people like his hero Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. We haven’t met Reeve in person but it seems clear to us that he’s driven by just the sort of compassion and sense of justice we need more of in this world.
Thank you Reeve from all of us at the NhRP!
To donate to Reeve’s fundraiser in support of the NhRP and Save the Chimps sanctuary, visit this page.
If you know or are a young activist who wants to get involved in the NhRP, or you’re an educator who wants to teach your students about nonhuman rights, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.