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Should Animals Have Legal Personhood?

OPB | Dec. 4, 2013 12:50 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 8:41 a.m.

Agnes Souchal/IDA-Africa

On Tuesday’s show, author and veterinarian Sheri Speede talked about why she considers chimpanzees to be “kindred beings.” An animal rights group in New York wants to take that one step further.  The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a writ of habeas corpus — a legal doctrine applied only to humans — on behalf of a chimpanzee named Tommy, in an effort to take him from his owners and have him put in a sanctuary. The court filing says:

“This petition asks this court to issue a writ recognizing that Tommy is not a legal thing to be possessed by respondents, but rather is a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

This is actually the first in a series of three cases that will be filed this week seeking freedom for chimpanzees in New York. We’ll hear from an animal law expert in Oregon on what kinds of precedents these cases could set.

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