Though a panel of appellate judges ultimately ruled against them, the continuing effort to get chimpanzees recognized as legal persons (and thus entitled to some legal rights) is troubling.
The Nonhuman Rights Project sought to gain legal human status for a chimpanzee named Tommy, declaring that it should be eligible to receive legal rights.1 In a lower court, the NRP claimed that “chimpanzees are self-aware and autonomous”2 and that Tommy, the caged chimp, was imprisoned illegally, “deprived of his fundamental common law right to bodily liberty” and access to other rights. Judges denied Tommy and three other chimps personhood under the law. The NRP appealed the judges’ decision and lost.
It may not be long before advocates for intelligent animals like elephants, dolphins, and ravens—all nonprimates—head to court in an attempt to get their clients recognized as persons with legal rights.
In our humanistic society, such animal advocacy is ironic but not surprising. With evolutionary thinking dominating academia, the media, and museums, who is to argue with the NRP’s contention? How ironic that people who put human reasoning (apart from God) above God’s Word ultimately end up valuing animal rights more than human rights!
Genesis clears up the confusion. Only humans are created in the image of God, and as God’s stewards on earth, human beings are not simply equal to the rest of creation but are responsible to rule over it, including the animals (Genesis 1:28).