It was bound to happen. Chimps are similar enough to people that many so-called “scientists” actually think that humans evolved from common ape-like ancestors.
So, maybe it should not shock us that entire groups are now suing on their behalf, to cause them to recognized as “persons” under the law.
“Personhood” is a term also extended in the law to corporations (Wal-Mart, Exxon, etc.) even though they are not human beings. Wal-Mart is not the late Sam Walton, nor is Apple the late Steve Jobs. Corporations can own property, sue, be sued and issue stock, for example.
As persons under the law, the chimps would be eligible for some legal protection, such as not being used in medical experiments or kept in cages. The medical experiments often benefit human beings, ironically, because of their physical similarities to humans.
Steven Wise, an author and animal rights activist has filed several lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees. He runs a group called the “Nonhuman Rights Project,” advocating legal personhood for chimps and other animals. In one case, he calls chimpanzees autonomous, self-determined, self-aware, intelligent, and emotionally complex beings, that cognitively resemble human beings.
As such, this movement tries to ban their use in circuses, their captivity in zoos, and also their use in medical testing for diseases. In what might be a sign of things to come, New Zealand and Spain extended personhood protections to the great apes. Other countries have banned research on great apes.
Wise argues, "The act of denying equality in order to enslave, based on a single trait, jeopardizes the equality of everyone."
What about fetuses? Why can’t we protect humans? The one trait that differs is simply viability outside the womb.
Those of us who know that chimps and humans were both specially created by God on day 6 can both acknowledge that humans have dominion over all the animals, but we can also be compassionate in our care of chimps and others.
I, personally, would like to see at least the same compassion extended to the unborn by the abolition of abortion.