Judge: Chimps Are Not Legal Persons

Animals used in research are property, a New York State Supreme Court justice rules.

Jul 31, 2015
Tracy Vence

Young chimpanzees at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation CenterWIKIMEDIA, DEPHINE BRUYEREResearch chimpanzees “are considered property under the law,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe wrote in a decision this week (July 30), The New York Times reported. As such, she continued, “they are accorded no legal rights.”

As part of an ongoing legal case brought against the institution by the activist group Nonhuman Rights Project, in April Jaffe ordered Stony Brook University to provide justification for its custody of two research chimps, Hercules and Leo. Stony Brook spokesperson Lauren Sheprow told the New York Times the institution is now “in the process of reviewing Judge Jaffe’s thoughtful decision.” Nonhuman Rights Project President Steven Wise said he and his colleagues plan to appeal the ruling.

In her decision, Jaffe called efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees “understandable,” but, she noted, legislators “are slow to embrace change.”