New York State Appellate Court Rejects Personhood for Chimpanzees

The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Judicial Department rejected an argument this month by the Nonhuman Rights Project seeking to grant personhood to captive chimpanzees. The Nonhuman Rights Project wanted the court to authorize the release of two chimpanzees owned by private companies.

The petition as to Tommy was brought in December 2015. It is alleged that Tommy, who is owned by respondents Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc. and its officers, is in a cage in a warehouse in Gloversville, New York. The petition as to Kiko was brought in January 2016. Kiko, who is owned by respondents the Primate Sanctuary, Inc. and its officers and directors, is allegedly in a cage in a cement storefront in a crowded residential area in Niagara Falls, New York.

. . .

Petitioner has filed four identical petitions in four separate state courts in four different counties in New York. Each petition was accompanied by virtually the same affidavits, all attesting to the fact that chimpanzees are intelligent, and have the ability to be trained by humans to be obedient to rules, and to fulfill certain duties and responsibilities. Petitioner has failed to present any new information or new ground not previously considered. The “new” expert testimony presented by petitioner continues to support its basic position that chimpanzees exhibit many of the same social, cognitive and linguistic capabilities as humans and therefore should be afforded some of the same fundamental rights as humans.

Any new expert testimony/affidavits cannot be said to be in response to or counter to the reasoning underlying the decision of the Court in People ex rel. Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v Lavery (124 AD3d at 148). In declining to extend habeas relief to chimpanzees, the Court in Lavery did not dispute the cognitive or social capabilities of chimpanzees. Nor, did it, as argued by petitioner, take judicial notice that chimpanzees cannot bear duties and responsibilities. Rather, it concluded:

“[U]nlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights — such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus — that have been afforded to human beings” (id. at 152).

. . .

The asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of chimpanzees do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions. Petitioner does not suggest that any chimpanzee charged with a crime in New York could be deemed fit to proceed, i.e., to have the “capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense” (CPL 730.10[1]). While in an amicus brief filed by Professor Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, it is suggested that it is possible to impose legal duties on nonhuman animals, noting the “long history, mainly from the medieval and early modern periods, of animals being tried for offenses such as attacking human beings and eating crops,” none of the cases cited took place in modern times or in New York. Moreover, as noted in an amicus brief submitted by Professor Richard Cupp, nonhumans lack sufficient responsibility to have any legal standing, which, according to Cupp is why even chimpanzees who have caused death or serious injury to human beings have not been prosecuted.

The Nonhuman Rights Project issued a statement saying that it would appeal this decision to New York’s Court of Appeals.

Steven M. Wise, founder of the NhRP and the attorney who argued on behalf of Tommy and Kiko in Manhattan in March of 2017, said in response to the ruling, “For 2000 years all nonhuman animals have been legal things who lack the capacity for any legal rights. This is not going to change without a struggle. That fight has begun and we remain confident that Tommy’s and Kiko’s fundamental right to bodily liberty will be recognized as a matter of justice so that they too may experience the freedom they so desperately deserve. Public opinion has begun to tilt in our favor since we started filing these lawsuits, likely as a result of them.”

Animal Experiments in UK Up Slightly, But Still Far Below Highest Levels

The UK’s Home Office released a report earlier this month noting a slight increase of 2.3 percent in the total number of animals experiments country. But at just 2.85 million laboratory procedures involving animals, the number of procedures requiring animals in 2004 was almost half of what it was in the mid-1970s indicating the success of the effort to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in medical research.

Research involving genetically modified animals continued to increase. Thirty-two percent of all animal experiments in the UK in 2004 involved genetically modified animals compared to 27 percent in 2003.

The number of research involving non-human primates, however, declined significantly, with only 4,208 experiments involving such animals in 2004 — a 12 percent decline from 2003.

There were a total of 2.78 million laboratory animals used in research in the UK in 2004, a 2.1 percent increase over 2003.


GM animal tests continue to rise. Paul Rincon, BBC, December 8, 2005.

Great Ape Trust of Iowa, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Lobby Against Apes in Ads

Researchers at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa and colleagues from major zoos are teaming up to discourage the use of apes in advertisements and entertainment.

Robert Shumaker, director of orangutan research at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, said that for awhile the use of monkeys in advertisements and entertainment seemed to have died down. He told the Des Moines Register,

It seemed like it was dying down for a while, but now it’s coming back. . . . I think that the commercial use of great apes, whether in entertainment or pet trade or photo ops, is impossible without some kind of abuse. . . . The abuse comes when no one is looking.

Companies that use apes in advertisements defend the practice and note that regardless of welfare issues, apes in ads work. Erin Fifield of Taco John’s, which has been running an ad campaign the past couple years featuring Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey, told the Des Moines Register,

People love him. Whiplash has a fan base worldwide. He’s just a lovable character who, even before he joined Taco John’s campaign, was appearing at rodeos riding around on his dog. Since he joined Taco John’s, sales are up and visibility is up. . . . This little monkey is treated better than most people. He has his own trailer. He’s like another kid. . . . Someone will always find a reason to complain, but he is not abused.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Amy Rhodes told the Des Moines Register that it has had some success in convincing companies to not use apes in advertising. She cited Honda, Puma, Keds and USA Warehouse as companies that agreed to pull ads featuring apes or monkeys after PETA raised objections.

I suspect this is one area where the animal rights movement is likely hurting the cause of animal welfare. It would be preferable, in my opinion, that non-human primates not be used in entertainment. The problem is that thanks to the actions of groups like PETA with their whining about renaming Fishkill, New York or their comparison of animal agriculture to the Holocaust/slavery, serious animal welfare issues will get swept away as just another ridiculous animal rights complaint (as Fifield clearly dismisses the animal welfare concerns).


Use of apes in ads worries scientists. Perry Beeman, Des Moines Register, August 15, 2005.

Animal Rights Groups Call for End to Primate Experimentation

At August’s Fifth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, a number of animal rights groups signed on to a resolution calling for the worldwide end to all medical research involving primates.

Those agreeing to the resolution included the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and the German Animal Welfare Federation.

The full text of the resolution read,

Call to end the use of non-human primates in biomedical research
and testing from animal protection organisations worldwide
Berlin, August 2005

Non-human primates are highly intelligent, sentient animals. They form intricate social
relationships, interact with their environment in a dynamic and complex way, and
engage in imaginative problem solving. It is also widely accepted that primates
experience a range of negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, apprehension, fear,
frustration, boredom and mental stress) as well as a range of positive emotions (e.g.
interest, pleasure, happiness and excitement). In short, they are very close to humans
in their biology and capabilities, and the users of non-human primates argue that this
makes them ideal ‘models’ for research. However, this also means that primates have
the capacity to suffer like humans, so there can be no question that primates can
experience pain and distress.

Confining animals who would normally live in a very large and complex home range in
the laboratory, must have a significant adverse effect on their welfare. At its best
laboratory primate housing represents only a small fraction of their home range. The
worst, still commonly used in many countries, is a small, barren metal box in which the
animals can only take a few steps in any direction. Other aspects of the lifetime
experience of laboratory primates also cause stress and suffering, particularly where
they cannot control their environment, social grouping, or what is done to them. Any
pain or distress associated with experimental procedures is therefore compounded by
additional adverse effects resulting from capture of wild primates, breeding practices,
transport, housing, husbandry, identification, restraint, and finally, euthanasia.

For these reasons alone, the use of primates in research and testing is a matter of
extreme concern to the animal protection community worldwide and to the significant
sector of the public who they represent. This concern has been recognised at a
regulatory level with some countries making special provisions for primates in their
legislation, and emphasising the need to reduce and replace primate experiments.


The animal protection organisations attending the Fifth World Congress on
Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Berlin in 2005 have united to
call for an end to the use of non-human primates in biomedical research and
testing. We urge governments, regulators, industry, scientists and research
funders worldwide to accept the need to end primate use as a legitimate and
essential goal; to make achieving this goal a high priority; and to work together
to facilitate this. In particular, we believe there must be an immediate,
internationally co-ordinated effort to define a strategy to bring all non-human
primate experiments to an end.

In a press release announcing the resolution, the Humane Society of the United States noted its objections to the continued use of non-primate species in medical research as well,

At the occasion of the World Congress, the Vice-President of the German Animal Welfare Federation (Deutscher Tierschutzbund), Dr Brigitte Rusche, the Director of Eurogroup, Sonja van Tichelen, and the Vice President for Animal Research Issues of the Humane Society of the United States, Dr Martin Stephens, also expressed concern about the continuous use of other animals in research and the slow progress in the development, validation and acceptance of non-animal alternatives. As a result in the EU alone, over 10 million animals continue to be used in experiments every year including mice and rats but also fish, pigs, goats, cats, dogs and primates.

Of course this is the same Martin Stephens who in 1999 conceded that we owe much of our advanced understanding of human biomedical knowledge to animal research.


Worldwide call for primate testing ban. UKPets.Co.UK, August 22, 2005.

Animal Protection Organisations from Around the World Call for an End to the use of Primate Testing. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, August 22, 2005.

Activist: We Need More Deadly Hurricanes

This week, of course, the major news is the ongoing disaster in New Orleans where Hurricane Katrina has forced the evacuation of the city and likely killed thousands of people. And if animal rights activist Rick Bogle had his way, there would be many more Katrinas.

On an animal rights mailing list devoted to primate research, Bogle posted a link to Tulane’s main web site, noting there was no mention yet of the status of the university’s primate research center, Covington.

Animal rights activist Jean Barnes replied to that e-mail to the effect that she had talked to a USDA official who said there were no primate deaths at Tulane, but that there were other animals that were stuck in the facility.

Bogle replied,

If there were no primate deaths at Covington over the past few days, then this must be the first time in a long time that a monkey hasn’t died. We need more Katrinas.

Barnes then replied,

Katrina would need to extend to DC to be most effective.

Animal rights activists always get angry when their critics charge that they care more about animals than people, but Bogle and Barnes demonstrate the casual disregard for human beings that is characteristic of many activists. A hurricane that likely killed thousands of people and caused upwards of $50 billion in damages is a good thing, and would be even better if it would land elsewhere.


Primfocus: Tulane. E-mail messages, Jean Barnes and Rick Bogle, September 1, 2005.

PETA Calls on Richmond, VA, to Reject Philip Morris Facility

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently sent a letter to Richmond, Virginia, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder urging Wilder to stop the planned construction of a Philip Morris research facility in that city.

Philip Morris plans to finish construction on a $300 million research and technology center in 2007. Richmond has donated land worth $3.2 million for the project and agreed to a 10-year tax abatement to convince Philip Morris to build in Richmond, where Philip Morris is based.

According to PETA, architectural plans for the new center include rooms labeled “Primate Room 1” and “Primate Room 2,” which PETA claims are rooms destined to house non-human primates for research. However, PETA itself is not in possession of any plans that show these primate rooms. Instead, Mary Beth Sweetland told The Richmond Times Dispatch, PETA is relying on information it received from someone who PETA believes does have access to those plans.

Philip Morris spokesman Michael Neese told the Times-Dispatch that there were no plans to house primates at the facilities and that any animal research there would be conducted with rodents.

The animal research is likely directed at finding safer cigarettes, which Philip Morris and other cigarette companies have long investigated (Philip Morris has, in fact, test marketed different versions of a safer cigarette over the years).

Regardless of the type of research or animals used, the project is unlikely to be derailed by PETA. A spokesman for Richmond told the Times-Dispatch,

The mayor does intend to stand by the commitment he made to Philip Morris, and they are a valued corporate citizen in Richmond.


PETA urges city to pull Philip Morris support. John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 12, 2005.

PETA Calls On Mayor Wilder To Pull Public Financing Of Philip Morris Center. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 10, 2005.