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


The Nonhuman Rights Project
February 2018

nonhuman rights

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.

Sometimes people (including judges) ask us: why personhood? Isn’t animal welfare enough?

As we wrote in the Memorandum of Law we just filed as part of our Motion for Permission to Appeal the cases of chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals: “Personhood determines who counts, who lives, who dies, who is enslaved, and who is free … Legal persons possess inherent value and exist for their own sakes; ‘legal things’ possess merely instrumental value and exist for the sakes of legal persons.”

Freedom matters to Tommy and Kiko, just as it does to us. There is no good reason these self-aware, autonomous beings should not be able to exist for their own sakes—as chimpanzees. They deserve the right to enjoy, in a sanctuary environment, the emotionally, socially, and intellectually rich lives we humans deprived them of when they were born into captivity some thirty years ago.

I have another big announcement to share with you today.

In support of our motion, a group of 17 philosophers with expertise in animal ethics, animal political theory, the philosophy of animal cognition and behavior, and the philosophy of biology have submitted an amicus curiae brief in which they urge the Court of Appeals, “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.”

We are thrilled to have the support of this group of philosophers. They are: Kristin Andrews (York University); Gary Comstock (North Carolina State University); G.K.D. Crozier (Laurentian University); Sue Donaldson (Queen’s University); Andrew Fenton (Dalhousie University); Tyler M. John (Rutgers University); L. Syd M Johnson (Michigan Technological University); Robert C. Jones (California State University, Chico); Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University); Letitia Meynell (Dalhousie University); Nathan Nobis (Morehouse College); David Peña-Guzmán (California State University, San Francisco); James Rocha (California State University, Fresno); Bernard Rollin (Colorado State); Jeffrey Sebo (New York University); Adam Shriver (University of British Columbia); and Rebecca L. Walker (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Please VISIT THIS PAGE TO LEARN MORE about, read, and share our Motion, our Memorandum of Law (which details our arguments), and the philosophers’ amicus brief.

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