A lawyer who founded the Nonhuman Rights Project on behalf of apes, whales, and elephants says these animals should have their “personhood” legally recognized. Steve Wise will go before the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan this week and argue on behalf of two chimps he represents. The animals aren’t abused, but are kept in cages. It’s legal, but Wise says it shouldn’t be because apes are persons.
Chris Tritico, KTRH legal analyst, doesn’t believe Wise will win the case. “Well, that’s just not going to happen, because they are not human,” he explains. “And because they’re not human, they don’t have the rights guaranteed people by the United States Constitution.”
Wise will try to bolster his argument by pointing out that an Argentinian judge has twice ruled in favor of the “personhood” of apes. Tritico isn’t impressed. “We don’t follow Argentinian law here in the United States,” he points out. “We tend to follow our own common law. And our Constitution is just not going to follow that.”
Tritico notes that Wise’s case doesn’t even involve a claim of animal abuse. “People don’t want animals abused. I’m with that 100%,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean the Constitution or the Bill of Rights is ever going to be applied to protect an ape. Period.”
Nor is Tritico convinced by the fact that certain entities, such as corporations, are defined as persons under the law. “When [the] U.S. Supreme Court said that corporations have certain rights under the Constitution,” he says, “that doesn’t mean that they’re people in every sense of the word.”
All things considered, it looks like the Planet of the Apes isn’t just around the corner.