People are trying to get a chimpanzee rescued from a cage by filing a habeus corpus claim with the government. This wouldn’t matter much to me except that CNN’s legal expert has decided to proclaim (“grudgingly”) that their arguments are persuasive.
A writ of habeas corpus requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court. The idea behind habeas corpus is to provide a mechanism to seek the release of an unlawfully detained prisoner who is being held without sufficient cause or evidence.
I have no problem with people seeing a mistreated animal, feeling sorry for its pain, and trying to relieve that suffering. The best way, I would think, would be to simply raise money to buy the animal in a secret way that doesn’t allow the seller to know the buyer’s motives. You don’t want people intentionally acquiring and mistreating animals as a way to make a profit. A less efficient way would be to appeal to animal cruelty laws. I hate animal cruelty laws that are used to harass legitimate businesses. But I think they are appropriate for “recreational” cruelty like dog fights. I’m not sure where this chimp’s cage falls into that mix, but that’s the best we can do for a mere animal.
But invoking habeus corpus is obscene. When one considers that the same legal environment allows unborn babies to be killed, it is downright evil and disgusting. Affirming the personhood of animals along with human beings can have other evil results that I won’t go into here.
If you scoffed at the idea of property having rights, what would you say to the fact that successful habeas petitions have been brought on behalf of property in the past? There is precedent, found in the more scandalous annals of American history: slavery.
One of the reason the original Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novel so sickened me was that it obviously equated Africans with apes. The salient point here is that slaves may have been property but they were also human beings. Chimps aren’t.
The second argument is that, when a pet owner leaves a pet an inheritance, they are legal “persons.” That may be a convenient legal fiction for arranging a pet owner’s property, but that is all the pet owner is doing—arranging for the disposition of property—pet included!—by contract law.
The third argument is far more bogus:
If you’re still skeptical, would you be more inclined to believe that a chimp should be considered a person if I told you that the law already recognizes as persons things that are not even living?
The Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United paved the way for corporate “personhood” and the idea that corporations are free to exercise the First Amendment rights historically held only by humans.
A corporation is a construction of persons who, in their corporate relationship, have personal status. The “personhood” is derived from living human persons. It can’t apply to animals. And if the Supreme Court had ruled otherwise, they would have effectively nullified the First Amendment. In order to freely publish and broadcast, persons must have the freedom to arrange, save, and collect the resources necessary to do so. Corporations are how people exercise their First Amendment rights. If the Supreme Court had ruled that corporations don’t get First Amendment protection then they would have been ruling that human people don’t get that protection.
But this still applies to the creation of the will and agreements of humans. The legal personhood of a corporation has no application to the animal kingdom.
Giving rights to animals is a way to marginalize the rights of human beings. It is a degrading move that clears the road to (further) serfdom.