Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Rise of the Personhood of the Apes

Are apes people?
Napa, CA – It is the new monkey trial. Today, before five judges, Steven Wise, in association with the Nonhuman Rights Project, will argue that apes are people too. Don’t laugh, it’s true. A twenty-plus aged monkey, named Tommy, is currently living in what Wise describes as a “dark, dank, shed” in upstate New York.

The animal is owned by a man, according to the British newspaper The Guardian, named Patrick Lavery. However, Wise claims that it is not ownership, but wrongful imprisonment. Here’s the catch, animals cannot be wrongly imprisoned, only owned. Wise, who has been working for decades in an attempt to give more rights to animals, is going to argue that Tommy the ape is wrongly imprisoned, because he is, in fact…a person.
This is not the first time that a country has considered giving apes greater personhood protection. Spain ruled in favor the primates not too long ago. Of course, it’s a touchy subject. For those that want to blame evolution, which some claim is a contributing factor, it may be well to keep in mind that Charles Darwin, (if not the father of the theory, he definitely is a close uncle) would never have approved of something like this. Lamenting in his books that these animals were no killed off.
Naturally, legal theorists are on the case at both ends. If monkeys are people, (and by the way, even if Tommy is declared a person today after the hearing, he will not automatically be free, there will have to be another case on whether he is really wrongly imprisoned) than a whole host of issues arise. From can we still experiment on them, to what kind of person is a huge lumbering thing that can’t talk, eats monkeys, fights amongst themselves, and is incapable of obeying or even understanding the laws that all other “persons” are expected to observe?
Lawrence Freedman, who took two decades of his life to write his magnum opus, Strategy: A History, and one of only a handful of books that stretch beyond eight hundred pages and is still worth reading, began the work with a chapter on the strategy of the apes. Mostly it was about how they defend themselves. but it forgot to mention this bit, that they might just turn themselves into “persons” for the ultimate protection. There are a few, seen as cynical souls by some, who would wonder “who, in this case, is the greater monkey?”
Andrew C. Abbott

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