This week brought confusing news on the legal status of research animals, as a judge in New York state seemed to grant two chimps legal personhood and then revoke it the next day.
New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe signed an order on April 20 requiring Stony Brook University to respond to claims by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, were being unlawfully detained. The NhRP then claimed that by this action the judge had implicitly granted the chimps legal personhood, because the document, called a writ of habeas corpus, can only be granted to a person in New York state.
However, after extensive media coverage on April 21, Jaffe amended the order, letting arguments on the detention of the chimps go forward but removing the words WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS from the top of the document.
Sorry, chimps. As far as legal status, cats really do seem to have it better. In 2012, Hank the cat ran for the senate in Virginia, while in 2011, a cat in Italy inherited $156 million. Power. Money. Noms and naps. What next, kittehs?