U.S. lawsuit demands "legal personhood" for chimpanzees

A US animal rights group has filed what it said is the first lawsuit seeking to establish the “legal personhood” of chimpanzees.

The non-profit Nonhuman Rights Project asked a New York state court to declare a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Tommy’s “detention” in a “small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed” in central New York is unlawful and demands his immediate release to a primate sanctuary.

Chimpanzees “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings,” Steven Wise, the president of Nonhuman Rights Project, told Reuters.