Thursday, September 27, 2007

to be or not to be

can a chimpanzee be a person? there is a court case currently in austria based on this premise. it is not a question of the chimp being declared human, but rather that he not be classified as a thing or object. let the associated press explain further:

"VIENNA, Austria - He's now got a human name — Matthew Hiasl Pan — but he's having trouble getting his day in court. Animal rights activists campaigning to get Pan, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, legally declared a person vowed Thursday to take their challenge to Austria's Supreme Court after a lower court threw out their latest appeal. A provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case earlier this week, ruling that the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories had no legal standing to argue on the chimp's behalf. The association, which worries the shelter caring for the chimp might close, has been pressing to get Pan declared a "person" so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests and provide him with a home.

... Organizers could set up a foundation to collect cash for Pan, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they contend that only personhood will give him the basic rights he needs to ensure he isn't sold to someone outside Austria, where he's now protected by strict animal cruelty laws. In April, a district court judge rejected a British woman's petition to be declared Pan's legal guardian. That court ruled that the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger, the grounds required for an individual to be appointed a guardian. In dismissing the Association Against Animal Factories' appeal this week, the provincial court said only a guardian could appeal. That doesn't apply in this case, the group contends, since Pan hasn't gained a guardian.

... The Association Against Animal Factories points out that it's not trying to get Pan declared a human, but rather a person, which would give him some kind of legal status. Otherwise, he is legally a thing. And with the genetic makeup of chimpanzees and humans so strikingly similar, it contends, that just can't be.

"The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?""

leona helmsley's little maltese doggie inherits $12M, and the usa has estate lawyers who specialise in pet trusts. it is apparently forbidden for well-wishers to buy this chimp a few meals or a bed for the night. i think he needs to emigrate.

interesting question, though. i have no idea of the legal ramifications, but i'd vote for personhood in this case. of course, i have always been a big fan of dr. zira

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