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Sunday, April 26, 2015

fair verdict for non-humans by humans ~Chimps are humans !!

Tommy, 26, had been watched closely by everyone across the globe  is 26.  He has been living alone watching cartoons and was not bothered about the probable decision in the law suit – but everyone else where ! – how can it be !!

Human evolution is the evolutionary process leading up to the appearance of modern humans. There have been many theories confounded on human evolution usually covering the evolution from primates - the emergence of Homo sapiens #.. and almost immediately some would spring to ask – ‘If humans evolved from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys around?’  Perhaps that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. In evolution, entire species do not evolve into new species; new species tend to evolve as isolated offshoots of existing (parent) species.

There is also the theory that humans did not evolve from apes, gorillas or chimps. The modern species have followed different evolutionary paths, though humans share a common ancestor with some primates, such as the African ape. Primate cognition is the study of the intellectual and behavioral skills of non-human primates.  Sometime back there was this interesting report on a monkey acting as a midwife to another monkey in the act of having a baby. The incident is so rare it has never been recorded before in detail, or filmed or photographed.

Away from this Tommy is a  chimpanzee, at the centre of one of America's more curious legal battles filed by Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) seeks to have Tommy recognised as a person under law.  A 79-page legal brief submitted by the NhRP claimed that the chimp is kept in a "small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed".  Three years ago, according to the the NhRP, there were four chimpanzees on the site, and not long before that there were six. They "were primarily used in entertainment",  but in a short span, Tommy is reduced to be a loner though  Patrick Lavery, Tommy's owner,  insisted that the chimp is comfortable in this environment. Mr Laverty, stated that he and his wife Diane had kept chimps for decades, adding that Tommy had access to TV, cable and a stereo, and that he enjoyed watching cartoons.

Whatever the facts of Tommy's living conditions were, he became the focal point of the  distinct case at a mid-level state appeals court in Albany. A panel of five appellate judges heard Mr Wise's petition for a writ of habeas corpus – a request for a custodian to prove he or she has lawful authority to detain a prisoner. The NhRP's campaign fought for  extending rights to non-human entities.  The lawsuit refers to an English case from 1772     that dealt with an American slave named James Somerset, who escaped from his owner in London. After a plea of habeas corpus was filed, the court ruled that Mr Somerset was a person rather than a thing and set him free.

Person is not a synonym for ‘human being’,” the brief explained, “but designates an entity with the capacity for legal rights. ....... now comes the news that NY judge has ruled that  wo primates held at research lab are covered by same laws that govern detention of people.  A New York judge has granted two chimpanzees held at a research lab the same rights as human prisoners, after a two year legal battle by an animal rights organization.

news.sciencemag.org  reports that the  two primates, currently living in a lab at Stony Brook University, are the first animals in history to be covered by a writ of habeas corpus, allowing their detention to be challenged. A representative of the Long Island university have been ordered to appear in court to respond to a petition by the Nonhuman Rights Project that chimps Hercules and Leo are 'unlawfully detained.'

The decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe effectively recognises the chimpanzees as legal humans, the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports.  The lawsuits were originally filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project in December 2013, in an attempt to free Hercules and Leo and two other chimpanzees living on private property.  Although the courts threw out the suits, the animal rights' group has been appealing ever since, and have now been granted the writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the Stony Brook chimpanzees.

A Stony Brook representative have been ordered to appear in court next month to respond the petition which argues that the chimps  should be set free and moved to a sanctuary in Florida.  The 2013 lawsuits include affidavits from scientists who say chimpanzees have complex cognitive abilities, such as awareness of the past and the ability to make choices, and display complex emotions such as empathy. 'That is, being able to self-determine, be self-aware, and be able to choose how to live their own lives.'   Although Judge Jaffe's ruling only requires a Stony Brook University representative to attend a hearing regarding Hercules and Leo next month, it can be used to set precedent for further legal action.

According to NhRP – it is all about getting foot in the door ~ no matter what happens, the door can never be completely shut again !  A favourable verdict here could  lead to broader rights not only for chimps and their fellow primates, but also for other intelligent animals such as elephants, orcas and dolphins.  A fair verdict for non-humans, by humans ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd Apr 2015.

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