Argentine court grants personhood status to captive orangutan

January 15th, 2015 by

Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan from Argentina has been granted a form of “non-human personhood.”

Sandra will now be removed from the Buenos Aires Zoo, her home for over 20 years and she will be relocated to an animal sanctuary in Brazil where she can enjoy her freedom. This ruling will not only open the way for apes and orangutans, but for other animals who have been unjustly deprived of freedom in laboratories, parks, circuses and zoos.

The decision was made by a three-member tribunal who believes it is necessary to recognize that non-human subjects are holders of rights and should be protected.

Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies stated, “it’s another turning point in recognizing animals as having a level of rights.”

Animal right activists also support this decision, as apes are closely related to humans. Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans as both creatures belong to the Hominidae family. Bonobos and chimpanzees are Homo sapiens’ closest neighbours, sharing 98.6% of their genetic material in common with humans.

Sandra’s case is not the first time activists have tried to release wild animals from captivity. It follows a case from New York centering around Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee who retired from the circus and is now a pet of a trailer-park operator. Tommy lives alone in a cage in upstate Fulton County. His lawyer told the court that Tommy’s living conditions are “akin to a person in unlawful solitary confinement.”  He argued that animals with human characteristics and qualities deserve basic human rights, including freedom from imprisonment. Unfortunately, in Tommy’s case, the U.S. court denied the opportunity to release Tommy and grant him personhood status.

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