Group Wanting Personhood for Chimps Allowed Them to be Mistreated for Lawsuit

National   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Dec 7, 2013   |   5:31PM   |   Washington, DC

I recently posted about the lawsuits that have been filed seeking writs of habeas corpus for chimpanzees. I promised I would write at greater length. It just came out.

While researching for my piece, I read the on-line boasting by the Nonhuman Rights Project about how the lawsuits came to be filed at this particular time. And I noticed something very interesting. The group apparently allowed chimps to be mistreated (at a roadside zoo) for an extended period because it served their ideological purposes.

From, “Habeas Chimpanzee:

According to the group’s website, its investigators have known of the alleged cruelty for some time, but apparently never reported it to the authorities. “Three months” after first discovering the chimps’ poor care, NRP investigators visited the zoo again and learned that two of the animals were dead.

Still they did nothing. Later, they found Tommy kept “in a small cage at the back of a dark shed,” clearly improper confinement for a social animal. Yet even this abuse they did not report, though doing so would likely have brought Tommy immediate relief. Instead, the NRP reports, “the conclusion of the legal team was to move as quickly as possible to file the suit,” pressing toward their ideological goals rather than seeking to secure Tommy’s present welfare.

How was it any different for the Nonhuman Rights Foundation to allow Tommy to wallow in seeming neglect in the service of their ideology than for the zoo to keep him in order to make money? It seemed to me that both the animal rights group and the business were making instrumental use of the chimpanzee.

I put that question to Gary Francione, the Rutgers law professor and intellectual leader of the “abolitionist” wing of the animal rights movement. He agreed, telling me (my emphasis):

To the extent that they [NRP] allowed these animals to remain in harm’s way and did not take any steps immediately available to prevent harm, by, for example, using the state anti-cruelty law, I have a serious problem with that. It’s inconsistent with regarding these beings as nonhuman persons.



It’s similar to the undercover investigations by animal groups into factory farms or slaughterhouses where they sit on the information for months while they prepare their fundraising campaigns instead of turning the material over to authorities immediately.In both situations, animals are used as means to an end, and that raises serious problems in my view.

Exactly right. This is one of the few times in which Gary Francione and Wesley J. Smith agree. The NRP cared more for their ideology than they did Tommy the chimp, who for all we know, may still be in that lonely cage. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.