The NY Supreme Court has decreed that two apes currently held at Stony Brook University for biomedical research are covered by habeas corpus, a law that protects against unlawful imprisonment that, up until now, has only been granted to “legal persons.”
In a historic ruling by the New York Supreme Court, it was determined that the two apes, Hercules and Leo — who are currently kept at Stony Brook University for biomedicalresearch — are covered by a writ of habeas corpus, a law that governs against unfair detention.
Up until now, under the law of New York State, only a “legal person” could have a writ of habeas corpus issued on their behalf. Justice Barbara Jaffe’s ruling could force the university to free the primates, and may potentially lead to more research animals being released in the future.
However further hearings will be required before the apes are afforded legal personhood. Legal experts have warned that the decision does not equate to a “substantive finding that chimpanzees are legal persons”.
The decision comes two years after animal rights organisationThe Nonhuman Rights Project (NHRP) launched legal cases to try, and free, four chimpanzees it claimed were being unlawfully imprisoned. Although the NHRP wanted the animals — including Hercules and Leo and two others — released into the care of Save The Chimps, a Florida sanctuary, the case was initially dismissed.
After lodging an appeal, the NHRP convinced Jaffe that the chimpanzees were intelligent enough to grant them some human rights, despite there being no precedent or legal basis for treating animals as people. The NHRP has argued that the mammals have similar enough characteristics to humans to give them the same rights.