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Canadian professors join fight to have chimps declared persons

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An animal rights group has lost another legal bid to have two chimpanzees declared persons so they can be transferred to a sanctuary. The case has attracted international attention and support. Some of that support has come from two Canadian university professors.

Both chimps were featured in films. Kiko ended up in a primate sanctuary in Niagara Falls. Tommy went to a family in Gloversville.

Animal rights groups claim that both chimps are being held in solitary in cages, one at the primate sanctuary and the other in a shed on a used trailer lot.
            
The animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project has launched several legal challenge to have them released so they can be sent to a outdoor sanctuary in Florida where there are other chimpanzees.
            
In its latest appeal before the New York Court of Appeals, Nonhuman Rights Project asked the court to grant the chimps habeas corpus relief. For humans that means to determine if someone is being unlawfully detained. But under New York law that applies only to people.
            
Two philosophy professors from Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University have joined other academics from across the U.S. and Canada in supporting the appeal. Letitia Meynell and Andrew Fenton argue that, morally, the animals have rights.
            
"This is just wrong. It’s an injustice and the Nonhuman Rights Project is right in trying to get habeas corpus relief to get these chimpanzees released to sanctuary," said Meynell.
 
But some researchers say the argument is flawed. They argue that while the DNA of chimps and humans may be close, it’s not close enough to sustain the legal arguments.

Nonhuman Rights Project says the recent ruling is, in a way, a step forward because it shows the law is inadequate in addressing some of the most ethical dilemmas at stake in this case.

The owner of the primate sanctuary in Niagara Falls where Kiko is housed would not comment on the case, saying it had already gone on too long.

Nonhuman Rights Project is considering its next move. That could include yet another legal challenge in this case.

WBFO’s comprehensive news coverage extends into Southern Ontario and Dan Karpenchuk is the station’s voice from the north. The award-winning reporter covers binational issues, including economic trends, the environment, tourism and transportation.