Going Ape With The Law

Will Coggin Senior Research Analyst, Center for Consumer Freedom
Font Size:

The National Zoo’s “Panda Cam” recently drew almost 1 million viewers to catch shots of a baby panda playing in fresh snowfall. But if radical activists get their way in court, seeing pandas and other animals at the zoo — or the aquarium, or even at home — may be a thing of the past.

Radical animal rights activists at the Nonhuman Rights Project and their allies like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have filed one losing animal liberation case after another trying to “liberate” animals that they believe are “imprisoned” or “enslaved” by people. However, an Argentinian court has finally given these groups a victory to latch on to.

Their latest cause celebre involves a 29-year-old orangutan living at the Buenos Aires zoo. Inexplicably, an Argentinian court recently ruled that the orangutan has legal rights and cannot be “imprisoned” in a zoo. It’s interesting to note that the suit didn’t allege mistreatment or abuse, rather it only sought to remove the animal from the zoo.

Here in the U.S., the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) has filed three separate cases against chimpanzee owners in the state of New York. In contrast to the Argentinian decision, however, the Appellate Division of the NY Supreme Court recently ruled against NhRP’s attempt to extend legal rights to animals.

In arguing its case, NhRP equated human ownership of apes to African-American children held as slaves prior to the Civil War. It’s similar to a failed lawsuit filed by PETA in 2011 that argued having Orca whales in captivity violates the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which bans slavery.

This kind of hyperbole is not just inaccurate. It’s insulting.

In one of the New York cases, a man had rescued a chimpanzee from an ice cream parlor in Ohio after the chimp was allegedly abused by a trainer. The chimp’s owner brings the animal into his home and watches Buffalo Bills games with him every weekend.

Does that sound like imprisonment? (Maybe PETA believes the chimp should get cable.)

Animals are already protected under animal welfare laws. That’s not good enough for the activists. They think people shouldn’t use animals for food, medical research, or even companionship.

NhRP has vowed to continue clogging up the courtroom in order to get animals recognized as “persons” and it hopes it can draw a sympathetic judge somewhere.

If animals have standing in court, then activists with law degrees and idle hands can “represent” the animal’s interests — which are really the activists’ own ideological interests.

Think about what that means. PETA calls zoos and aquariums “prisons” and believes no one should eat animal products, whether ice cream, butter, bacon, or burgers. Its founder has even stated her aim to end pet ownership. Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the United States — a vegan group like PETA that is not related to similarly named local pet shelters — aims to “pursue on all fronts… establishment of the rights of all animals,” which includes “access to the courts.”

Switzerland experimented with having “animal lawyers” to ill effect. A fisherman was hauled into court for taking too long to reel in his catch, while a person could be prosecuted for not having two goldfish (one might get lonely).

Groups like the Nonhuman Rights Project, PETA, and the Humane Society of the U.S. know that Americans would never vote for their agenda. But if they’re successful in their efforts to get a court decree, they’ll turn our legal system into literal kangaroo courts.

Will Coggin is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.