No Writ of Habeas Corpus for Orangutans

Wesley J. Smith

How is it possible to type those words — "writ of habeas corpus for orangutans" — without your laptop exploding?

It should be instantly recognized as ludicrous. But animal rights activists are suing, or planning to sue, all over the place looking for just one judge willing to go radical and grant one animal "personhood." In New York, for example, the Nonhuman Rights Project has brought a similar suit, for which it won a laudatory cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

A few years ago, a Brazilian judge came close to granting a chimp the great writ. But the animal died, forcing the disappointed judge to dismiss the case as moot.

Now, a Brazilian judge has thankfully said no to making an orangutan a "person." From the Merco Press story:

"Sandra is in captivity, living in absolute solitude in the Buenos Aires city zoo" argued AFADA, which requested the orangutan be transferred to a sanctuary to preserve the species. "She is being treated as a prisoner and has to suffer the presence of the public staring at her".

AFADA said in the presentation that it was appropriate "to question the deprivation of liberty of the primate, based on illegitimacy and the acknowledgement she is a non human person". The animals-rights activists’ organization anticipated they would be appealing the ruling and demanded Sandra’s protection on "at least three basic rights, the right to life, the right not to be tortured or ill treated physically or psychologically".

Those putative rights come from Peter Singer’s Great Ape Project.

Previosly, PETA sued Sea World seeking to have orcas declared "slaves." The case was tossed out, but for the sole reason that the judge ruled only humans can slaves, based on pre-Civil War definitions describing African-American slaves as persons.  

So, for now, human exceptionalism has not been hit with a sledge hammer. But animal rights anti-humanists will keep trying. And very rich and powerful people keep donating tens of millions of dollars to support and advance the cause.

Of course, human exceptionalism supports proper animal welfare practices as a duty. But proper care of animals isn’t the ultimate goal of animal rightists and utilitarians like Peter Singer. Instead, their goal is to reduce us to just another animal in the forest.

So sleep well, tonight. Sandra the orangutan should be cared for properly. But she remains legally what she is: by definition, not a person.

But don’t sleep too well. Remember, it takes only one judge who wants to go down in history.

Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.



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