Since 2013, an organization called the Nonhuman Rights Project has brought before the New York State courts an unusual request—asking for habeas corpus hearings to determine whether Kiko and Tommy, two captive chimpanzees, should be considered legal persons with the fundamental right to bodily liberty.
While the courts have agreed that chimpanzees share emotional, behavioural, and cognitive similarities with humans, they have denied that chimpanzees are persons on superficial and sometimes conflicting grounds. Consequently, Kiko and Tommy remain confined as legal "things" with no rights. The major moral and legal question remains unanswered: are chimpanzees mere "things", as the law currently sees them, or can they be "persons" possessing fundamental rights?
In Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers’ Brief, a group of renowned philosophers considers these questions. Carefully and clearly, they examine the four lines of reasoning the courts have used to deny chimpanzee personhood: species, contract, community, and capacities. None of these, they argue, merits disqualifying chimpanzees from personhood. The authors conclude that when judges face the choice between seeing Kiko and Tommy as things and seeing them as persons—the only options under current law—they should conclude that Kiko and Tommy are persons who should therefore be protected from unlawful confinement "in keeping with the best philosophical standards of rational judgment and ethical standards of justice."
Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers’ Brief—an extended version of the amicus brief submitted to the New York Court of Appeals in Kiko’s and Tommy’s cases—goes to the heart of fundamental issues concerning animal rights, personhood, and the question of human and nonhuman nature. It is essential reading for anyone interested in these issues.
Table of Contents
Foreword Lori Gruen
1. Introduction: Chimpanzees, Rights, and Conceptions of Personhood
2. The Species Membership Conception
3. The Social Contract Conception
4. The Community Membership Conception
5. The Capacities Conception
Epilogue Steven M. Wise.
Authors: Kristin Andrews, York Research Chair in Animal Minds, Associate Professor of Philosophy, York University, Canada.
Gary Comstock, Professor of Philosophy, North Carolina State University, USA.
G.K.D. Crozier, Canada Research Chair in Environment, Culture and Values, Professor of Philosophy, Laurentian University, Canada.
Sue Donaldson, Research Associate, Department of Philosophy, Queen’s University, Canada.
Andrew Fenton, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Dalhousie University, Canada.
Tyler M. John, Ph.D. Student in Philosophy, Rutgers University, USA.
L. Syd M Johnson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, Michigan Technological University, USA.
Robert C. Jones, Associate Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Chico, USA.
Will Kymlicka, Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, Queen’s University, Canada.
Letitia Meynell, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dalhousie University, Canada.
Nathan Nobis, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Morehouse College, USA.
David Peña-Guzmán, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Liberal Studies, California State University, San Francisco, USA.
Jeffrey Sebo, Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Philosophy, and Director of the Animal Studies M.A. Program, New York University, USA.
Foreword: Lori Gruen is William Griffin Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University, USA, coordinator of the Wesleyan Animal Studies program, and Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Science in Society.
Afterword: Steven M. Wise is an American legal scholar, a former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project.
"Chimpanzee Rights is a concise yet comprehensive account of how personhood is understood by the law, how it has been defined by philosophy, and how it should be defined to serve nonhuman animals like Kiko and Tommy better[...] Chimpanzee Rights is an important contribution to the current sentience debate that affects nonhuman animals all over the world. It moreover stands as a strong example of how public philosophy is relevant and how it can make a difference in today's public discourse."
Silke Feltz, Metapsychology