A chimpanzee lost his fight for personhood, after the New York State Appellate Court ruled that a locked-up chimp doesn't have the same rights as humans.
The Nonhuman Rights Project has been suing to free a 26-year-old chimpanzee named Tommy from his upstate NY cage. Steven Wise, a lawyer from the group, had argued that Tommy was being unlawfully imprisoned, "Keeping a legal person in solitary confinement in a cage is unlawful."
The Nonhuman Rights Project says it's "the first and only organization petitioning courts to recognize that, based on existing scientific evidence, certain nonhuman animals—specifically great apes, dolphins, and elephants—are entitled to such basic legal rights as bodily liberty and integrity." And it offers this evidence: "Our legal claims are based on the best scientific findings on genetics, intelligence, emotions and social lives of these animals showing they are self-aware, autonomous beings. Our work is supported by an international group of the world’s most respected primatologists." Here's video of Tommy in his cage:
However, Presiding Justice Karen Peters wrote in a decision, “(Wise) requests that this court enlarge the common-law definition of ‘person’ in order to afford legal rights to an animal. We decline to do so, and conclude that a chimpanzee is not a ‘person’ entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus." Peters was backed by Justices John Lahtinen, Elizabeth Garry, Robert Rose and Michael Lynch.
She also wrote, "...unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights — such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus — that have been afforded to human beings."
The Nonhuman Rights Group told the NY Times it will appeal the case to the NY Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in the Empire State. Executive director Natalie K. Prosin said, "That habeas corpus has never been demanded before on behalf of a chimpanzee is not a reason for denying it now... [Common law should] change in light of new scientific discoveries, changing experiences and changing ideas of what is right or wrong."