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Activist Lawyer Asks Judge to Free Pet Chimpanzee
Steven Wise originally hoped to file lawsuits on behalf of seven chimpanzees being held in captivity. Steven Wise, author of the book Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, is now in the process of filing several unprecedented lawsuits in New York state courts. legal academic and professor Wise’s group — the Nonhuman Rights Project, is dedicated to advancing legal personhood for animals. By the time the lawyer and longtime animal rights advocate had filed his writs of habeas corpus on behalf of all the known chimpanzees in New York, three had already died.
A first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed Monday in Fulton County, New York, asks a judge to free a chimpanzee that Wise says is being held against his will as a pet in New York. Chimpanzees can make choices and much like humans, can have an interest in the freedom to live as they wish, Wise says. They would not be released to fend for themselves, of course; Wise is asking that the chimpanzees be sent to a primate sanctuary, According to Huffington Post. The lawsuit is among three the group is filing this week on behalf of four chimps across New York.
In the U.S., the federal government earlier this year announced its intention to house chimpanzees in more “natural” facilities, as well as to reduce the use of these primates in medical research, stating both technological improvements and ethical considerations.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a June 2013 statement, Chimpanzees’ “likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use.”
“We need to study these animals to help them,” Steve Feldman, a spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told the Boston Globe.
The Nonhuman Rights Project plans to file two additional lawsuits to free two male chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, allegedly owned by New Iberia Research Center and used in locomotion research by the anatomy department at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., and Kiko, a 26-year-old chimpanzee living on private property in Niagara Falls, reports USA Today.
The move marks a first in the US, but legal proceedings in other countries have sought — and sometimes obtained — certain rights for chimpanzees.
Image Credit: The Huffington PostActivist Lawyer Asks Judge to Free Pet Chimpanzee by Jaan