Tommy the chimp is just an animal, not a prisoner

A New York appeals court is currently being asked to consider whether a 26-year-old chimpanzee should be entitled to ‘legal personhood’. Tommy, a retired circus performer living in a cage in upstate New York, is represented by lawyer Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP). The NhRP’s argument is that animals with ‘human qualities’, such as chimps, should have basic rights – including freedom from imprisonment.

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The chasm between great apes and people

Today we are often told that us ‘arrogant’ human beings need to get off our anthropocentric pedestal. We are not as special as we think; we are ‘just another ape’. Peter Singer, the so-called father of the animal rights movement, claims that the great apes – that is, orang-utans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos – are not only our closest living relatives; they also possess many of the characteristics that were once considered to be unique to humans.

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Animals are useless, unless humans make use of them

Should apes have rights? Absolutely not. Rights are a human concept, premised on the idea of autonomous individuals, who should be treated equally before the law.

Animals are not autonomous. They cannot take responsibility for their own actions, and they cannot – like us humans – subordinate their individual natural drives to the interest of society as a whole. In fact, they do not have society. It is therefore nonsensical to grant animals rights.

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