A New York judge has granted two research chimps the writ of habeas corpus – a move that allows them to challenge their detention. The decision, says Science magazine, effectively recognizes chimps as legal persons, marking the first time in U.S. history that an animal has been given that right. The order, dated April 20, requires Stony Brook University to appear in court and provide a legally sufficient reason for keeping the two chimps, Hercules and Leo. A hearing is scheduled for May 6.
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), the group that filed the case on behalf of the chimps, said in a statement it believed the Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe’s order “implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are ‘persons.'” But Richard Cupp, a law professor at Pepperdine University who opposes personhood for animals, told Science, “It would be quite surprising if the judge intended to make a momentous substantive finding that chimpanzees are legal persons if the judge has not yet heard the other side’s arguments.”
Read more at Science.