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Are Human Rights For Non-Humans Too?

Paula Stibbe, an Englishwoman living in Austria, wants to adopt Matthew — a 26-year-old chimpanzee — when his habitat sanctuary closes. The problem? Austrian law says only humans are allowed guardians.

Not satisfied with Austria's Supreme Court's rejection of their request to give the chimp legal standing, Matthew's advocates are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Stibbe explained that they are not trying to get him declared a human, just a person. (I guess that must be a legal distinction.) She has argued:

Everybody who knows him personally will see him as a person. In his home in the African jungle, he would have been well able to look after himself without a guardian. But since he was abducted into an alien environment, traumatized and locked up in an enclosure, it did become necessary for me to act on his behalf to secure the donation money for him and to avoid his deportation. Since he has no close relatives, I am doing this as the person closest to him.

Matthew was captured as a baby and smuggled into Austria to be used for pharmaceutical research. If he is not recognized as a person, he could be sold or killed for economic profit.

Does Matthew's predicament require a less extreme solution? If he is considered a person, is he entitled all human rights? Should there by a separate framework for animal and human rights, or should we all be treated with the same level of dignity?

Join The Conversation
flutterpie flutterpie 9 years
if he gets declared as a person, he needs to get a job, no one likes a lazy chimp
anne_ anne_ 9 years
geez...let her keep him.
Jillz1128 Jillz1128 9 years
I don't get why he can't just adopt it or buy it like you would a dog. Perhaps there is something missing from this story. I don't think declaring him a person is the real solution though.
syako syako 9 years
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
that picture totally reminds me of my ex boyfriend.
rivrchild rivrchild 9 years
So, is the only reason they want to declare it a person because that's the only way around the law? Are there no laws protecting animals in Austria? I don't see what the problem is if someone wants to take care of an animal and they have the means to do so, they should be allowed to. What is the alternative? Release it into the wild? If this chimp has been kept in captivity most of its life, would it be able to live on its own in the wild? Would it be better suited for human care since that's what it has known? If Austria had laws protecting animals to begin with would declaring it a human/person even be an issue?
janneth janneth 9 years
Come on, it's not a human. And there is a huge animal rights movement going on in most countries, so get that going for this case. On the way extreme, I think in San Fran you cannot "own" pets, but can instead be their guardians.
GeriAnne1932 GeriAnne1932 9 years
If this was a dog or a cat would there be an issue? I guess I'm confused as to what gives us rights and rules to adopt or purchase some animals but not others? I would hope that some animal protection agency could go to this person's home if safety is a concern and do check-ups sort of like CPS does for children?
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
Wow hypno that's fascinating. I'd love to learn more about that too. In situations like this, I feel like there is a death of common sense. Just let this woman "adopt" this animal for god's sake! Ugh.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
People are humans too.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I saw it on television a few years ago harmonyfrance. I've tried to google search it a few times with no luck. I don't remember if it was PBS, Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geo, or TLC. I guess the next best thing is to call the stations and ask. I'd like to get a tape of that myself.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
hypno that is an amazing story. Do you know where I could find it?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Oh for heavens sake send him to an animal rescue and be done with it. Don't get me wrong I have the up most respect for the creature. One of the heroes listed on my myspace page is Jane Goodall. I just think it's silly to go through all of this unnecessary wrangling over legal distinction. Just find the poor thing a good home. On a side note apes truly deserve more respect than we afford for their intelligence alone. I am reminded when I read this article of another ape at a behavioral research center that learned sign language. One of the researchers had been pregnant and it was a difficult pregnancy. She apparently had taken a leave of absence for about three months before she returned. When she reentered the habitat upon her return this ape came up to her and signed her name. They proceeded to have a discussion in sign language. This is not verbatim but as well as I can remember it. The ape says "where been?" the woman says away. The ape replied "baby, where baby?" remembering that the woman was pregnant. The woman replied baby gone, no more baby. The ape replied "sad" snuggled up next to the woman and gave her a hug. I'm telling you not even my favorite love story The Note Book made me cry that hard. I was beside myself in tears.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Hmmmmm by the very name of them, I would have to say that Human rights are only for humans...
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
What a sad situation. :( Poor little guy. My initial reaction is that buying him would be the simplest solution. I'm not sure I understand their argument that unless he's declared a person, he could be sold outside of Austria. If they obtain ownership of him, are they planning to sell him? And if they can't afford to take care of him, how can they be his guardians? Seems very complicated.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
i dont know, but he has less hair on his back than my next door neighbor, Let the woman take guardianship, dont they have an ASPCA or something like that there?
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