GBS Switzerland

Prof. Steven M. Wise − The Nonhuman Rights Project (Basel University)

Speaker: Prof. Steven M. Wise
Location: Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 117

Steven is an animal rights pioneer: He’s the head of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), which is trying to achieve actual legal personhood and rights for the first non-human animal in history. The NhRP’s first cases have generated global media attention. The New York Times wrote:

“Chimpanzees are not people, no matter how they are dressed up for commercials, but perhaps they are close enough that they deserve some of the same rights humans have.

That is what an animal rights group claimed on Monday when it filed a classic writ of habeas corpus, that revered staple of American and English law and tired cliché of detective fiction — not for a human being held unlawfully, but for Tommy, a chimpanzee in Gloversville, N.Y.

This is no stunt. The Nonhuman Rights Project has been working on this legal strategy for years, sifting through decisions in all 50 states to find one that is strong on what is called common law, and one that recognizes animals as legal persons for the purpose of being the beneficiary of a trust.”

The NhRP fits into our “rationality” lecture series on at least two accounts: First, it bases its claims on a mountain of scientific evidence demonstrating non-human animals’ cognitive capacities. Second, it’s interested in pursuing a strategy that’s maximally effective. Its “predictive analytics” staff has tried to figure out which US sub-jurisdiction possesses the best predictors, relative to the NhRP’s goals. Steven has also been interested in EA (Effective Altruism) and EAA (Effective Animal Activism).

For a German description of what the NhRP has been about so far, see this GBS blog post.

On April 4-5, Steven will be attending and speaking at the conference The Animal Turn and the Law, organised by Basel University’s doctoral program “Law and Animals”, which is supporting his stay. We encourage everyone interested in animal rights to attend the conference − its program and line-up of speakers is extraordinarily promising.