The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Hercules and Leo have been kept under lock and key by the State University of New York for locomotion studies. Tuesday was Hercules’ and Leo’s court date, where New York Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe heard arguments about whether the University has violated their rights by detaining them. But Hercules and Leo didn’t show up for their hearing. They are chimpanzees.
Stephen Wise, arguing on behalf of the chimps, said that they should be granted a writ of habeas corpus and moved to an animal sanctuary in south Florida: “They’re essentially in solitary confinement … This is what we do to the worst human criminal.”
This is not the first time animal rights activists have argued that animals enjoy rights that are roughly equivalent to the legal rights for humans. Last year, the same group working on behalf of the chimps attempted to extend “legal personhood” to apes (amny.com).
Christopher Coulson, an assistant state attorney general representing the university, argued that the whole case was improper because to extend human rights to animals is a category mistake. Also, he said that releasing the chimps wouldn’t really liberate them, because the chimps would still be confined rather than being in the wild.
It is shocking that Judge Jaffe agreed to hear the case at all, and even more surprising that she is taking her time to make a decision. But when generations are inundated with Darwinian evolutionary theory—trained to think there is no fundamental difference between human and other species—then we can expect little else.
Animals cannot have the same rights that humans enjoy. The Bible provides the grounds for two fundamental ethical principles: (1) Animals are not to be mistreated, but rather are to be carefully stewarded as a resource. (2) Humans have rights that animals do not. The existence of animals on Earth demonstrates God’s magnificent power, creativity, and love (Job 39). But, animals are to be used as resources in the service of man, even to the degree of man killing and eating animals (Genesis 9:2-3; Mark 1:6; 11:7; 1 Timothy 4:4). Only man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). While chimps and other animals have a measure of intelligence, they are not soul-bearing, ethical creatures, and man has dominion over them (Genesis 1:26; Psalms 8:6-8). Man is sovereign among God’s creatures.
As Mohler pointed out (“The Briefing”), there are some troubling questions for those who oppose the Bible on this: Which rights should animals have? (Voting rights? Rights to own property? Rights to not be stepped upon?) Which animals should have these rights? (Elephants? Ants? Deer?) What happens when human rights and animal rights come into conflict? (We have enough difficulty controlling animals when we feel free to control them!)