Aug. 13, 2007 issue - Are chimpanzees more like babies or bicycles?
Put another way: are they beings with basic rights, or property to be
returned to an owner? The answer may decide the fate of Emma and
Jackson, two chimps at the center of a custody battle between animal
sanctuaries in Texas and Oregon.
The pair were among more than 200 animals removed from San Antonio's
Primarily Primates Inc. after the facility was sued last year for
misusing funds and maintaining unsanitary and dangerous conditions.
Now the suit has been settled, and PPI is petitioning to reclaim some
of the creatures. Emma and Jackson's new home, Oregon's Chimps, Inc.,
doesn't want to return them. "To return them to the scene of the
crime, if you will, is no different than returning a young child to an
abuse situation and saying, 'Everything's better now'," says Bruce
Wagman, an animal-law specialist representing Chimps, Inc., and others
Animal welfare is a relatively new legal argument, one that doesn't
yet trump claims of ownership, says Michigan State law professor and
animal-rights expert David Favre. But the two arguments may not be
mutually exclusive--animals can remain property and still acquire