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Nonhuman Rights Project seeks "legal personhood" for chimps

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Don't look now PETA, but someone is stealing your shtick.

Yesterday, the non-profit Nonhuman Rights Project filed what it claimed is the first lawsuit seeking to establish the "legal personhood" of chimpanzees.

Specifically, the NRP is petitioning a New York state court to declare Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, "a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned."

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Tommy's "detention" is unlawful and demands his immediate release to a primate sanctuary.

Chimpanzees "possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they're found in human beings," said Steven Wise, the president of Nonhuman Rights Project, told Reuters. "There's no reason why they should not be protected when they're found in chimpanzees."

While this may be the first time "legal personhood" has been sought for a nonhuman, this is not the first lawsuit of its kind. Ingrid Newkirk and the aforementioned People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had previously tried to sue Sea World for slavery.

Similar to the typical PETA lawsuit, the petition for "legal personhood" should be taken as nothing more than a grab for attention. Beyond this, nothing is being asked for that should not be covered under already existing animal welfare laws.

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