[monkeywire] Activists want chimpanzee declared a person

Josh Greenman josh.greenman at gmail.com
Thu May 22 19:14:38 EDT 2008


Activists want chimpanzee declared a person

Last updated: 7:31 AM BST 22/05/2008

A British woman is leading a court challenge to have a chimpanzee
declared a "person" so the animal can enjoy "human rights".

Paula Stibbe and a group of Austrian animal rights activists want the
European Court to declare that the ape, who they have given the name
Matthew Hiasl Pan to make him sound "more human", legally declared a
person so she can be appointed his guardian.

Mrs Stibbe wants the declaration so she can take care of the
26-year-old chimp if the bankrupt animal sanctuary in Voesendorf,
south of Vienna, where he currently lives, is forced to close.

The European Court of Human Rights case comes after Austria's Supreme
Court upheld a lower court ruling against the group - known as the
Association Against Animal Factories - who wanted a trustee appointed
for Matthew so Mrs Stibbe could look after him using money pledged by
a benefactor.

The court ruled the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger,
which are the legal grounds required for a guardian to be appointed.

"We appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, because everybody is
entitled to a fair trial, even chimps," said Martin Balluch, the
group's president.

He said humans and chimps had so much DNA in common, that the court
should declare Matthew a person.

"This question is of paramount importance," said Mr Balluch, who said
he would use expert opinions from prominent scientists,
anthropologists, lawyers and philosophers in the case.

Mr Balluch said activists wanted to ensure the ape, which was captured
as an infant in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use
in pharmaceutical experiments, is cared for if the shelter was closed.

Matthew, and another chimp at the sanctuary, cost about £4,000 a month
to keep and while a donor has offered to pay for the upkeep, under
Austrian law, only a person can receive gifts. Matthew is expected to
live until he is 60 and activists say only a "declaration of
personhood" would ensure he was not sold for profit.

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