Two related stories from Primate Info Net this week. In Austria, a chimpanzee named Matthew Hiasl Pan (!!) is at risk of becoming homeless if the animal shelter he’s lived in for 25 years goes bankrupt. Private donors are willing to pay for his ongoing accommodation costs, but since only humans can receive personal gifts, activists have tried to obtain “personhood” status for Matthew. The supreme court turned them down. Matthew’s human friends will now have to set up a foundation in his name to process donations, but they’re worried that without personhood there’s nothing to stop him being sold to a foreign owner and having to leave the protection of Austria’s strict anti-cruelty laws.
Are chimps people too?
Meanwhile, in Texas, a court has dismissed a claim by PETA that chimpanzees and monkeys in a local sanctuary have the right to sue over their conditions.
Why do I feel so differently about these two cases? I don’t think Austrian Matthew should be granted human status, but surely there was some other way to give him added protection and keep him in the country. But giving chimps the right to sue? C’mon. That’s not the right way to go about things at all. I wonder whether the money and effort invested in this case could have actually made a difference if spent on lobbying for improved legislation to regulate sanctuaries and zoos instead.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just biased against PETA, who I think have their hearts in the right place but are often grossly misguided, and Fox News (linking to their site made me feel dirty).
Seeing as it’s Friday and I’m already in the habit, I’ve also posted about primates at my other blog (well, I wrote the text yesterday and posted it today – I can’t figure out how to fix the date and time stamp like I can here). But there’s nothing there that regular readers of this blog won’t have already seen, so skip that and read about transposable elements instead! It’s full of geeky science goodness.