Sunday, December 8, 2013

everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey

"Oh, for chrissakes!"

It's official. We, as a society, have failed. We have tried to rise up and better ourselves as productive members of civilization, contributing to the continuing evolution of our species and our planet. But, it turns out, we are just a bunch of self-righteous morons who can't distinguish our collective asses from any number of holes in the ground.

This week, a friend showed me an article about something called The Nonhuman Rights Project, a campaign led by an animal rights group. They have filed a writ of habeas corpus (that there's lawyer talk for a petition to release a prisoner or captive, based on lack of evidence) essentially demanding that chimpanzees held in zoos be recognized with "personhood." You heard me, Dr. Zaius — personhood. The wish for chimpanzees to be granted rights usually reserved for beings who can hold a job, operate heavy machinery, cure diseases and wear pants for reasons other than "it looks cute when you're riding a unicycle." We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen. Good night and drive safely.

Steven Wise:
"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle."
The suit has been reported in such respected news outlets as TIME, The New York Times and CNN (okay, maybe CNN shouldn't be listed under the "respected" category). The basic story centers around Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee who lives in a cage in trailer park. Tommy has his own television for company. May I reiterate that Tommy is a chimpanzee. He most likely has thrown his own shit at something that annoyed him during a point in his life. May I also reiterate that a chimpanzee is not a person. I'm not a lawyer or a zoologist, but I can tell you that with some amount of confidence. However one ironically-named Steven Wise will tell you differently.

Mr. Wise is the founder of The Nonhuman Rights Project and the initiator of the legal debate. He is a legal scholar who teaches animal rights law at Harvard Law School, Vermont Law School, John Marshall Law School, Lewis & Clark Law School, and Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. I just lost respect for the prestige of Harvard. The Yale Law Journal called him "one of the pistons of the animal rights." Oh, for fuck's sake — not Yale, too!

Look, I don't want to come off as a cold-hearted animal-hater. (In reality, I'm a cold-hearted human hater, but that's another blog post.) I get choked up when Sarah McLachlan shows me pictures of sad-eyed doggies and abused kittens in-between acts of cable TV reruns, her voice cracking in gut-wrenching helplessness. I had cats growing up. My wife and I had cats for many years. I smiled when my son recently sent us a video of a cat relentlessly licking his beard for a little under a minute. I also know that, when there were cats living in my house, there was a box of shit in my house, too. I have seen animals at the zoo and I have seen people at the zoo and — for the most part — I can tell the difference.

I wonder... while the "personhood for chimpanzees" issue is being hotly debated, are the residents of the Primate House at the zoo listening intently, their large ears cocked towards the radios, anticipating a positive verdict? If results are found in their favor, will they erupt in jubilation, much like members of the LGBT community when the deliberation over same-sex marriage is at hand? I doubt those scenarios will remotely mirror each other, since the LGBT populace includes intelligent, educated individuals (human individuals) and the Primate House is made up of a bunch of monkeys who scratch their assholes while they eat.

Personhood, Mr. Wise? Why don't you ask Charla Nash how she feels about "personhood for chimpanzees?" Of course, Ms. Nash won't be able to see you while you question her because her eyes were savagely ripped out in an unprovoked attack by her friend's chimpanzee, along with both of her hands and most of her face.

Don't waste the time of the already-overburdened courts, Mr. Wise. And don't you dare insult the concept of "personhood." 

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