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Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Yesterday there was a big flap over legal personhood for chimpanzees. In the morning a friend sent me this link:

At the time, the article had said that two chimpanzees had been granted legal personhood. By the end of the day, it turned out that they hadn't. Some people thought I would be happy for Bow to be granted legal personhood. Those people do not know me very well. Keep in mind, a corporation is a legal person, too. It's not what it sounds like.

Bow is intelligent, creative and has feelings. But in what way would legal personhood benefit him? Would it allow him to control his life better? To make choices for himself? No.

No chimpanzee has ever been asked in court what he would like to do with his life, and if legal personhood for chimpanzees were to become the law of the land in any state, chimpanzees would still have no say in what happens to them. Personhood is a legal fiction that some people use to manipulate the resources that belong to other people. Legal personhood would allow animal rights activists to appoint a guardian ad litem to purport to speak for a chimpanzee against the person who owns the chimpanzee. This is not too different from what currently happens with children who are taken from parents by the State and given to other people. It even happens in custody fights between the natural parents of a child, if the fight becomes too hateful.

I used to be a believer in children's liberation, when I was a child. Wouldn't it be great if children could make all the important decisions about themselves right from the start? I thought. When I studied law I learned that minors could in fact petition for their own emancipation, once they could prove that they were able to support themselves. I liked that idea, and as a lawyer, I always hoped that some fourteen year old would come to my office, ready to pay my full fee, so that I could help him win his freedom. But no child ever showed up asking for freedom. Instead, I had to deal with divorce cases.

Most of the time, nobody asked the children what they wanted. Social workers were sent out to evaluate the parents. "What is in the best interest of the child?" was the phrase they bandied about. But nobody asked the child.

One of my clients did want her child to speak to the judge and tell him which parent he preferred. I spoke to child first, to determine if this would be a good idea. The child asked me not to tell the mother, but he really did not want to make that decision himself. He loved both his parents, and he did not want to choose. I told my client it would not be helpful to put the child on the spot.

As adults with full legal rights, we are inundated with choices, sometimes too many choices. Not every adult human being is able to handle that much freedom. Some adults actually want others to decide for them, but we no longer have the legal institution of slavery to help such people. Instead, they vote to give more and more of everybody else's rights to government overseers who will protect us from ourselves.

 Most children do not want or need to be liberated too early. Most parents are better guardians for a child than complete strangers. The person who pays the bills and wipes away the tears and sets the limits  is the person who cares. Unfortunately, in modern custody fights there is also the child support issue -- and that sometimes skews the results and encourages litigation. Sometimes a non-custodial parent sues for custody just to avoid paying child support or in order to get the other parent to pay support to him.

In custody fights over chimpanzees -- make no mistake about it -- the "child support" is a big part of the battle. Whoever gets custody of the chimpanzees in the Federal system also gets the funding to pay for their support. Funding to pay for support includes jobs for the people who take care of chimpanzees on a day-to-day basis. Do you think that lobbying for the jobs of such people does not influence the outcome?

A real mother raises her child without pay.  A person who really cares about his chimpanzee is the person who also pays the bills. But when Federal funding comes into it, everything gets skewed.

Think about what happened to Sally Boysen's chimpanzees. Think about what Kanzi and the other bonobos are facing. It is all about money -- public money. Even medical research on chimpanzees is funded by public money. If you want to cut down on that, de-fund the Feds. Take away their research money. Take away their right to own chimpanzees at public expense. But leave private owners alone.

In Ohio, the State government recently confiscated a lion from a home where he was well cared for. When the lion got sick under their care, the state officials "euthanized" him. When  the owner asked to have the body back, the state dissolved the lion in acid, so that no evidence of what they had done to him could remain. The law that allowed this to happen was lobbied for by animal rights activists.

Animal rights activists do not care about the rights of animals. They don't care... period. They have an agenda that has much more to do with ending property rights than in helping animals. My property rights are the only thing that stands between them and Bow.

The orchard is looking good after the grass was mowed. The first cherry tree is done flowering and is working on producing fruit.

The pear trees are starting to grow pears.

The peach trees are miraculously trying to turn yesterday's blossoms into peaches we can eat.

Bow continues to use my little finger to hold onto as he points at letters. He has a mind of his own, but he also changes his mind a lot. "I want to go outside" can be followed immediately by "I want my blanket" -- meaning that he wants to stay in. Sometimes he asks for a banana, but he does not really want the banana. Can you imagine asking him in a court of law where he wants to live? And forcing him to live with that decision for the rest of his life?

Bow relies on me to protect him from stormy weather, and at the end of the day, when the sun goes down, he feels safe.

The legal fiction of personhood could never help someone like Bow. It would only be a tool in the hands of activists with an agenda.

If  you would like to help support Project Bow, please consider buying some of my nature photocards


  1. Very good article, Aya - I like you led the readers to the conclusion of it being about the govt. funding. It's more & more frequent these days that people are always trying to get a piece of that pie. The govt. pie. Well, *OUR* money that's been confiscated against our will.
    It's actually kind of funny - these people play with language to make it all look nice and rosy "personhood for chimps". It's all about the advertising - how they present it to the masses, so that it softens the real blow and they believe it. I'm glad you're not falling for it. I'm so sick of them trying to outsmart people by calling things something that they're really not.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. The more of that pie gets taken over by the public servants, the less is left for those whose pie it was in the first place. And then people complain about greed causing hunger.

  2. In the end I feel there is no good solution for the chimpanzees in the New York case. I do not agree with animal testing and research in this day in age, and there are viable alternatives. On the other hand, the ultimate goal of sending them to a particular sanctuary seems a bit odd. Why that particular place. Too bad there is not somewhere else the chimpanzee could go, but going back to medical testing just does not sound good to me.

    1. Hi, Julia. That's a good observation. Why that particular sanctuary?