One of the most memorable scenes in movie history comes at the end of the 1968 version of “Planet of the Apes.” The inimitable Charlton Heston, trapped in an ape-dominated society, finds the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand and realizes he’s living in Earth’s far future.
I thought of that scene earlier this week while attending a farm show in Devils Lake, N.D. One of the speakers there referred to a a recent lawsuit that seeks “legal personhood” for 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.” Google the lawsuit yourself, if you want more details.
Well, I’m not a scientist. I’m not qualified to assess whether chimps have a legitimate, necessary role in medical research. I won’t take shots at the Nonhuman Rights Project, either; supporters of animal rights have a moral obligation to follow their convictions.
But llike most Agweek readers, I have to wonder how livestock agriculture would be affected if chimps gain “legal personhood.” If you have any thoughts on the subject, please drop me a line and share them.