The fight to provide basic rights to nonhuman animals has been raging since 6 BCE. While animal cruelty laws have made a huge difference, even spawning animal abuse registries to help protect pets, but animals used in labs are still suffering every day. The process of removing animals from testing and protecting them has been at a near standstill for years now, but a huge leap forward comes by way of the Manhattan Supreme Court, more specifically, Justice Barbara Jaffe. Her ruling invoked a writ of habeas corpus regarding the animals imprisonment, an unprecedented event.
Justice Jaffey oversaw a case involving Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees that are used as biomedical test subjects as Stony Brook University. The case was presented by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NRP) who are fighting to free Hercules and Leo from Stony Brook. While this is not the first time a court has dealt with cases involving lab animals, the ruling by Justice Jaffey is the first to present animals with the same legal rights as “legal persons,” as defined by the law of New York. The writ of habeas corpus would require Hercules and Leo to appear before the court, and for Stony Brook to appear in court and provide a legally sufficient reason for detaining Hercules and Leo. If they can not show a legal reason to keep the chimpanzee’s locked up, Stony Brook will be required to release them.
The NRP has been fighting to free the pair since 2013, but have been rebuffed repeatedly in court. NRP founder Steven Wise, a lawyer from Massachusetts, has been making the claim that chimpanzees are autonomous, which Wise argues means they “are able to self-determine, be self-aware, and be able to choose how to live their own lives.” If the case is settled in Hercules and Leo’s favor, there will be a massive upheaval in how animals are used and treated in testing facilities across the nation.
Since the initial ruling, Justice Jaffey has amended the ruling to make it an Order to Show Cause. The distinction be a writ of habeas corpus and an Order to Show Cause is minimal, requiring Stony Brook to provide evidence justifying the imprisonment, but an Order to Show Cause would not require the chimpanzees to appear in court for the first stage of the suit. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 am at the New York County Supreme Court, 80 Centre St., New York, NY 10013. The hearing is open to the public, so if you can help show support for Hercules and Leo, please do!Whizzco