October 09, 2002
Legal protection for chimps makes front page news

Last week, while I was on vacation, chimps made major news. I hope those of you for whom this is old news will bear with me as I share it for those on my list  who are not so utterly immersed in animal rights or in web news.

On Monday, September 30, there was a Harvard law symposium, "The Evolving Legal Status of Chimpanzees." The keynote address was given by Jane Goodall; many experts on chimps and on animal law spoke at the conference. Those who doubt that the issue is becoming mainstream will be interested to hear that
a) Alan Dershowitz was one of the speakers and
b) the conference was covered on the front page of the Tuesday, October 1, Boston Globe.

The article, "Recognizing a Near Relation," by David  Arnold, included a nice quote from Dershowitz:

''Legal rights grow out of wrongs. And there is no question that this animal has suffered pervasive wrongs over many centuries.''

The above article also covered the fact that on the same day as the conference, "NIH announced a $24 million grant over 10 years that will allow Chimp Haven, an animal sanctuary in Louisiana, to shelter some 800 chimpanzees that have survived medical experiments."

This was also the focus of a Washington Post story appearing on the same day headed, "For Chimps, Some Space To Live Out Golden Years:
La. Retirement Sanctuary to House Ex-Research Animals."  That page A19 story tells us that it was a $19 million contract awarded by the NIH and that  "In addition, Chimp Haven said it plans to contribute $6 million in matching funds."

The article does not mention a controversial matter surrounding the retirement plan which caused some rifts in the animal protection community. The final version of the Chimp Act (the basis for the bill directing the retirement plan), the only version many advocates felt had any hope of passing, allowed for chimps to be taken from the sanctuaries back into research if it is deemed absolutely necessary. Many groups found this entirely unacceptable, feeling that the sanctuaries would really be charitably funded warehouses for researchers. Others, including Jane Goodall, felt that anything that could be done for the chimps was better than nothing, and that it would be easier to fight to keep a retired chimp from being returned to a research lab for vivisection than it would be to keep a currently laboratory-housed chimp from being used in experiments. We have yet to see how the situation plays out.

You can read the Washington Post article on line at:


On the next day, Wednesday, October 2, the second page of the New York Times Science section (page F2) carried "A Conversation with Steven Wise," author of "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals" and "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights." Unfortunately, since the article appeared over a week ago, I can no longer get a link to it that will give you access without a fee. However, I have a copy and am happy to forward it to anyone with a keen interest in reading the interview. I will share  the last question and answer segment, which I particularly liked, with all of you:

"Q. After two successful books, are there still people in the legal world who still consider you a nut case?

A. Yes, but the good news is that there are a diminishing number of them. There's a foundation for these ideas being laid with law courses, symposia and books. There's now a debate in the legal community. It takes time for ideas to filter through to the point where you might have a state supreme court somewhere rule in favor of animal rights. But it will happen."

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn