Paula Stibbe, an Englishwoman living in Austria, wants to adopt Matthew — a 26-year-old chimpanzee — when his habitat sanctuary closes. The problem? Austrian law says only humans are allowed guardians.
Not satisfied with Austria's Supreme Court's rejection of their request to give the chimp legal standing, Matthew's advocates are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Stibbe explained that they are not trying to get him declared a human, just a person. (I guess that must be a legal distinction.) She has argued:
Everybody who knows him personally will see him as a person. In his home in the African jungle, he would have been well able to look after himself without a guardian. But since he was abducted into an alien environment, traumatized and locked up in an enclosure, it did become necessary for me to act on his behalf to secure the donation money for him and to avoid his deportation. Since he has no close relatives, I am doing this as the person closest to him.
Matthew was captured as a baby and smuggled into Austria to be used for pharmaceutical research. If he is not recognized as a person, he could be sold or killed for economic profit.
Does Matthew's predicament require a less extreme solution? If he is considered a person, is he entitled all human rights? Should there by a separate framework for animal and human rights, or should we all be treated with the same level of dignity?