Steve Wise the lawyer ‘representing these chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo said:
“We had a history of that for hundreds of years saying black people are not part of society and you can enslave them. That wasn’t right. It didn’t work,” said Steven Wise, head of the Nonhuman Rights Project.
His group is asking a Manhattan Supreme Court judge to grant a writ of habeas corpus to two chimpanzees living in a Stony Brook University lab in Suffolk County. If granted, the writ would free the 8-year-old chimps Hercules and Leo by declaring their confinement illegal.
Wise came before Justice Barbara Jaffee after losing their fight in three other state courts.
He extended the slavery comparison by saying that at one point in time courts didn’t recognize Native Americans as “legal persons” either.
Wise said chimps are “autonomous beings…they are self-conscious…they can understand what others are thinking…they plan for what their life is going to be like…they have language they have mathematics, they have material and social culture. They are the kinds of beings who can remember the past and plan for the future.” In a human, argued Wise, those capacities are grounds for the right to be free. .
“Arbitrarily condemning an autonomous being to a life of slavery could eat away at the rights that we humans thought we had,” Wise claimed.
He went on to make the startling claim that locking up chimps “may be even worse than imprisoning human beings” because “they don’t even know why they’re there.”
The DA said animals don’t have the same legal rights as humans hence the Judge should dismiss the case because they have another location for the chimps that is safe for them.
Win or lose, Wise said at a press conference following the trial, the hearing itself was a victory. “Many human beings have these kinds of hearings,” he said. Chimpanzees “are now being treated like all the other autonomous beings of this world.” Whether they’ll continue to get that treatment will be up to Justice Jaffe.