A court in Austria has thrown out the latest attempt by activists to get chimpanzees declared persons under the law. Saying that the people who brought the suit had no legal standing to do so, the judge tossed it, leaving the activists fuming.
A provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case earlier this week, ruling that the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories had no legal standing to argue on the chimp's behalf.
The association, which worries the shelter caring for the chimp might close, has been pressing to get Pan declared a "person" so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests and provide him with a home.
Group president Martin Balluch insists that Pan is "a being with interests" and accuses the Austrian judicial system of monkeying around.
"It is astounding how all the courts try to evade the question of personhood of a chimp as much as they can," Balluch said.
A hearing date for the Supreme Court appeal was not immediately set.
The legal tussle began in February, when the animal shelter where Pan and another chimp, Rosi, have lived for 25 years filed for bankruptcy protection.
Activists want to ensure the apes don't wind up homeless if the shelter closes. Both were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled in a crate to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers intercepted the shipment and turned the chimps over to the shelter.
Their upkeep costs about euro4,800 (US$6,800) a month. Donors have offered to help, but there's a catch: Under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.
Left out of all the hyperventilation by the crusaders is the simple expedient of the activists either funding the shelter or buying the chimp to give it a more secure home. Instead they are wasting money on lawsuits. But ti really isn't about the welfare of the animals at all. It is about loathing for humans.
"The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?" Balluch said.