Chimpanzee Personhood: What the Media Said
An Animal Rights Article from

By Michael Mountain, Earth in Transition
December 2013

[For more, visit the Nonhuman Rights Project and read New York Cases – Judges’ Decisions and Next Steps]

As soon as we started filing our first three lawsuits last week, we were deluged with media interest from around the world. Here are just a few links to some of the hundreds of reports:

* The New York Times noted that our actions "added a milestone to a year that has already been remarkable for chimpanzees" and that our petition "argues in a 70-plus-page memo rich with legal, scientific and philosophical references that being human is not essential to having rights [and] that captive chimps are, in fact, enslaved, and that the same principles apply to them as to humans who were enslaved."

In follow-up pieces, the Times discusses scientific and philosophical view on nonhuman animal rights, and then considers the "unlikely alliance" that's brought chimpanzee sanctuaries together with the National Institutes of Health to retire many government-owned chimpanzees.

* The Huffington Post describes the urgency of these cases in that three of the chimpanzees for whom we were going to file our petitions died this year before we could do this. And in a video discussion, NhRP President Steven M. Wise answers some of the typical questions we've been getting from reporters.

* Wired magazine has maybe the best article if you want to understand the background to these cases. It tells how Steven Wise has "litigated hundreds of cases, ranging from the unusual mistreatment of dogs and cats to more unusual lawsuits: attempts to stop deer hunts, the transfer of a dolphin from the New England Aquarium into sonar research with the U.S. Navy."

* CNN has the best TV explanation of how this is "a classic habeas corpus" case. Separately, CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos writes that he was ready to pour cold water on the lawsuits ... until he read the legal documents. "I have to grudgingly admit: Their arguments are persuasive." He also tells Ashley Banfield that the petition is "beautifully written" with "very sound justifications."

* Science magazine is particularly interested in Hercules and Leo, who are being kept at Stony Brook University for experiments that help researchers understand how Australopithecus hominids might have learned to stand up. Anatomist Susan Larson tells Science she's "shocked and upset" by the lawsuit which is "hampering our ability to study them before they become extinct." News editor David Grim also hosts a one-hour video debate between Steven Wise and Pepperdine law professor Richard Cupp.

* In The Guardian, Steven Wise explains the "equality argument": Since chimpanzees have similar cognitive abilities to humans, "to simply pick out one quality they have that's different, which is that they're not human beings, and say you're not a legal person and don't have any legal rights – we argue that is a violation of common-law equality. It's a distinction without a difference."

* Above the Law is a popular legal blog that has some intelligent and witty comments.

* Canada's national morning show The Current on CBC radio interviewed Steven Wise here.

* BBC World Service had several news interviews with us. Most are no longer available, but here's their written summary.

* Voice of Russia did two radio interviews. Written summary is here.

* Netherlands VARA: And here's a roundtable discussion, with legal experts and others commenting on a TV report from the U.K. (The discussion is in Dutch, but it gives an idea of how the lawsuits have triggered international interest.)

Hundreds more are available on a news search, and more on a general web search.

 By way of full disclosure, I should note that I'm part of the Nonhuman Rights Project. It's a small organization and I act as its communication director. Your donations to the project are very welcome.

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