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A Legal Fight for Nonhuman Animals Thousands of Years In The Making

Steven M. Wise: ‘Almost four years ago, I looked into the eyes of a chimpanzee in his late 20s who was peering at me through the bars of his prison. Locked in a green steel-and-cement cage on a used trailer lot, he looked forlorn, helpless, and depressed. A small TV was playing cartoons ten feet outside the cage. What the chimpanzee did not know is that help was standing in that room with him, that I was preparing to file a lawsuit, the first of its kind in the world, aimed at freeing him from his unlawful detainment… I would learn that this chimpanzee had spent much of his life performing for humans. Ironically, the people who now claimed to “own” him were offering him human entertainment as if that made up for the loss of everything that makes life worth living for a chimpanzee: a natural habitat, the company of other chimpanzees, the choice of how to live his life… His name is Tommy… No one—not Tommy’s jailer, not any of the judges who have heard oral arguments in his case—has questioned that Tommy, like all chimpanzees, is an autonomous, extraordinarily cognitively and emotionally complex being, as the NhRP’s affidavits from chimpanzee cognition experts clearly demonstrate. Yet his legal status as a “thing” remains the same as the TV’s. What’s wrong with this picture?’ SOURCE…

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