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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Can an ape be classed as a legal person with rights??

Of course it seems like a loaded question but not entirely, but can Socrates, the great ape, be classed as a legal person? Considering that his closest cousin is the chimpanzee, and we are the closest cousins to them both, there are plans to do just that. 

In New York, a group of activists have filed lawsuits to grant them the “right to bodily liberty.” They also hope the judges will grant and recognize that the chimps have a basic legal right not to be imprisoned. Their beef is the imprisonment of four of them: Tommy, 26, Kiko, 26, and young Hercules with younger Leo; all four of them exist in cages across New York state.

The activists also claim that not too long ago that slaves were not classed as legal persons but as property belonging to a real person. They also argue that even a ‘Corporation’ is classed as a legal person so why not a chimp. One reason also they give is that they can’t argue for their rights just like children, and so they need legal representation and is a very strong point indeed. 

Spain saw it that way and passed a resolution in 2008 that deemed the great ape to be considered a legal person. So if Socrates and I ever land there, I am sure he will be giving me all sorts of trouble like wanting to drive the car and go look at other humans in cages. He will have to pass the Vehicle Driving Test first and that is sure to cause a few headaches or even a few heart attacks.

Of course, joking aside, there is a deeper issue going on and that is to stop the abuse of all animals. The activists want the chimps restored to a more natural habitat and what we would consider to be a more humane existence. Animals everywhere have little or no rights, and the sentences handed out to those that abuse them only encourage the abusers. 

In case I was in doubt about that issue I went to court once to pay a fine. While there, a man of considerable height and physique was up on charges for killing a golden retriever puppy. He lived in a terraced house next to a family that owned the puppy. The puppy really belonged to the six and seven year old girls of that family who gave it all the love and affection that that little ball of fluff would ever need. One day, the girls with the puppy stepped out their front door just as the man next door did. The puppy waddled over to the man’s boot and piddled on it, which drove him into and unstoppable rage. He kicked and stomped the puppy with his boot until the last yelp died away and there was no movement left or signs of life.

For that act of great wanton cruelty in front of two very frightened and traumatised little girls, that inhumane bully and pathetic excuse of a man was fined a total of €20 and 'asked' that he not do it again.

Barry Clifford