Orangutan Declared 'Non-Human Person' In Argentina
In a landmark ruling, an orangutan named Sandra held in an Argentine zoo has been recognized as a “non-human” person with basic legal rights.
Local media reported on Dec. 21 that a Buenos Aires judge ruled in favor of animal rights advocates who called for more freedom for the 29-year-old orangutan who was born in a German zoo before being transferred to the Buenos Aires zoo two decades ago.
The Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) filed a habeas corpus petition — a legal means for addressing the unlawful detention of prisoners — on behalf of Sandra in November. The group argued that Sandra has sufficient cognitive abilities, and therefore should not be treated as an object.
The court agreed and ruled Sandra as a “non-human” person who deserved basic legal rights, including her freedom. The group now wants Sandra transferred to a sanctuary.
“This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories,” the daily La Nacion newspaper quoted AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre as saying, according to the Huffington Post.
Unfortunately, Tommy the chimpanzee from New York state wasn’t so lucky earlier this month. Animal activists used the habeas corpus writ to argue for his right to freedom, but a five-member state judiciary panel tossed out the case, citing that a chimp could not be considered a “legal person” and thus could not receive his freedom.
The New York Times reports that Justice Karen K. Peters of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court wrote that “apes’ lackadaisical approach to civic life meant they did not deserve many of the rights afforded [to] most people.”
Although chimps share nearly all of the same DNA as humans, the animals’ lack of responsibility causes them to be less than human in the eyes of the law, according to Justice Peters.
Hopefully, Sandra’s case will be the first step in acknowledging that these animals are more like family to us than not, and soon they will be able to live more freely alongside us.