Steven Wise: Chimps have feelings and thoughts. They should also have rights

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Chimpanzees are people too, you know. Ok, not exactly. But lawyer Steven Wise has spent the last 30 years working to change these animals’ status from “things” to “persons.” It’s not a matter of legal semantics; as he describes in this fascinating talk, recognizing that animals like chimps have extraordinary cognitive capabilities and rethinking the way we treat them — legally — is no less than a moral duty.
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Steven M. Wise (born 1952) is an American legal scholar who specializes in animal protection issues, primatology, and animal intelligence. He 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. He is a former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project. The Yale Law Journal has called him “one of the pistons of the animal rights movement.
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By challenging long-held legal notions of “personhood”, Steven Wise seeks to grant cognitively advanced animals access to a full spectrum of fundamental rights.
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Using a long-term litigation campaign based on existing habeas corpus law, Steven Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project are redefining the playing field for animal rights law.
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While the high-profile New York lawsuits Wise has initiated on behalf of captive chimpanzees have yet to bear fruit, they’re only the first stage of a strategy that is changing the conversation about animal rights.

Attorney Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project argues on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee, before the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The court will decide whether chimpanzees should be declared "persons" rather than "things" so the animals can be freed from what critics call inhumane imprisonment. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Attorney Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project argues on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee, before the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The court will decide whether chimpanzees should be declared “persons” rather than “things” so the animals can be freed from what critics call inhumane imprisonment. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

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