About Rights

The mariner was skimming through internet news sources when he came upon the following news item:

“For the first time in U.S. history, a supreme court has granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two lab chimpanzees, effectively recognizing them as legal persons. While the future of the chimps has not yet been decided, it’s a huge step forward in establishing personhood status for highly sapient animals.


The chimps, Hercules and Leo, are being used for biomedical experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York…..Animals granted legal personhood status would be subject to many of the rights naturally afforded to human beings, including the right to not be detained without cause, to not be experimented upon, or to have to perform against their will.”

This is the latest attempt at giving smart animals their rights. Incidents already exist for circus elephants, seals, walruses and whales, pets who are heirs, and, for common animals used for pets or consumption, there are innumerable cases involving specific treatment or abuse. A recent issue is the sow stalls for pigs that are pregnant. A corpse has more room in a casket.gestation cages copy

[A gestation crate, also known as a sow stall, is a metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which a female breeding pig (sow) may be kept during pregnancy, and in effect for most of her adult life. The enclosures measure 6.6 ft × 2.0 ft (2 m × 60 cm) and house sows that weigh up to 900 lbs (408 kg). Source: Wikipedia]

Chris Christie(R) , New Jersey’s Governor, was about to sign a bill banning this practice when he backed off because Iowa Governor Terry Branstad(R) and the American Future Fund (pronounced Koch) asked him to veto the bill. The mariner assumes Iowa pig farmers use sow stalls, too.

Australia has banned the use of sow stalls.

Back to the chimpanzee habeas corpus, the judge removed the habeas corpus language the next day but the lawsuit still will be heard with the original intent. The mariner is befuddled because sapient animals, as smart as they are, don’t read. Further, they don’t speak human languages, although a complaint was filed by a neighbor against a parrot that would not shut up. Does a chimpanzee know its rights? Does a pig know its rights? They are at the mercy of the humans that own them. Would they prefer not to be around abusive humans? Of course. However, preferences are not rights. The mariner imagines that until the African slaves could speak English and observe white behavior, they also had preferences but no rights and likely suffered similar abuses.

He has the thought that if the chimpanzees knew about all the wars of history, all the killing, slavery, stealing, murders, rapes, cheating and family abuse, the chimps may think twice about having human rights. The advantage of being sapient but not human is that bad happenings are more rational than they are for humans. Sapient species don’t need presidents, congress, courts, dictators, terrorists or money. Sapient species don’t need torture or death, either – Homo sapiens’s contribution to their lives.

Abuse goes beyond hands-on maltreatment by humans. Humans also have little regard for the ecosystems that are required by every kind of specie. For many years, developers in Maryland bought estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay, backfilled them and built houses and factories. Finally, but too late, the legislature passed laws that restricted conversion of estuaries. The Chesapeake Bay, once an unbelievably rich source of marine life, is no more.

The mariner had another thought about habeas corpus. It won’t be too many decades before sapient robots exist. Granted, robots will be manufactured with specialized intelligence but in some ways, they may be more sapient then we are. We ourselves may be part robot! Perhaps we should go to the movies and watch a few of these futuristic robot movies. For the mariner, the Matrix is scary enough!

Ancient Mariner