Strange Moments In Legal History

September 27th, 2007at 08:19pm Posted by Eli

Hard not to notice a headline like Court Won’t Declare Chimp a Person, but the story itself is pretty interesting too:

He’s now got a human name — Matthew Hiasl Pan — but he’s having trouble getting his day in court. Animal rights activists campaigning to get Pan, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, legally declared a person vowed Thursday to take their challenge to Austria’s Supreme Court after a lower court threw out their latest appeal.

A provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case earlier this week, ruling that the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories had no legal standing to argue on the chimp’s behalf.

The association, which worries the shelter caring for the chimp might close, has been pressing to get Pan declared a ”person” so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests and provide him with a home.

Group president Martin Balluch insists that Pan is ”a being with interests” and accuses the Austrian judicial system of monkeying around.

”It is astounding how all the courts try to evade the question of personhood of a chimp as much as they can,” Balluch said.

(…)

The legal tussle began in February, when the animal shelter where Pan and another chimp, Rosi, have lived for 25 years filed for bankruptcy protection.

Activists want to ensure the apes don’t wind up homeless if the shelter closes….

Their upkeep costs about euro4,800 (US$6,800) a month. Donors have offered to help, but there’s a catch: Under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.

Organizers could set up a foundation to collect cash for Pan, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they contend that only personhood will give him the basic rights he needs to ensure he isn’t sold to someone outside Austria, where he’s now protected by strict animal cruelty laws.

In April, a district court judge rejected a British woman’s petition to be declared Pan’s legal guardian. That court ruled that the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger, the grounds required for an individual to be appointed a guardian.

(…)

The Association Against Animal Factories points out that it’s not trying to get Pan declared a human, but rather a person, which would give him some kind of legal status.

Otherwise, he is legally a thing. And with the genetic makeup of chimpanzees and humans so strikingly similar, it contends, that just can’t be.

”The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?” Balluch said.

”A large section of the public does see chimps as beings with interests,” he said. ”We are looking forward to hear what the high court has to say on this fundamental question.”

I suspect that Pan and his friends don’t have much of a legal leg to stand on, but I’m rooting for ’em.

Entry Filed under: Great Headlines,Weirdness


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