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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Rick Cupp Quoted in "Animal Advocates and Academics Seek Personhood Rights for Chimpanzees" -- Seeker

April 24, 2018 |Professor Richard L. Cupp is quoted in the article, "Animal Advocates Seek Personhood Rights for Chimpanzees," which is published in Seeker.com. The article addresses the latest developments in an animal personhood lawsuit being heard in the New York State Court of Appeals.

Excerpt from "Animal Advocates and Academics Seek Personhood Rights for Chimpanzees":

Richard Cupp, a professor at Pepperdine School of Law, told Seeker that he supports legal efforts to improve the welfare of animals, but said the term "animal rights" is vague.

"My experience is that many people who initially say they support 'animal rights' actually support imposing appropriate legal responsibilities on humans to prohibit mistreatment of animals, rather than supporting legal personhood and accompanying legal rights for animals," he said.

The arguments against granting animals personhood rights, he said, range from chimps lacking "a sufficient level of moral agency to be justly held legally accountable" to "the potential societal chaos" that would ensue should legal personhood be extended to nonhuman animals.

"Rejecting nonhuman animal, legal personhood does not imply being satisfied with the status quo regarding how we treat animals," Cupp said. "Society has made important advances in animal welfare in recent years, and we are probably closer to the beginning of this significant period of animal welfare, legal evolution than we are to its future high point. As a society we need to continue our evolution toward increased protection of animals, but they should not be made legal persons."

He acknowledges that lawmakers and others need to do a better job of being explicit in statutes, ordinances, and court decisions that sentient animals are different from inanimate property. "Sentience" itself is a loaded topic, but Cupp uses the word to describe animals capable of suffering.

His views of the issue will soon be published in the University of Cincinnati Law Review. A draft of the article is available online. As Cupp admits in the article, however, not granting chimpanzees and other animals personhood does mean that they are "still property" in the eyes of the law.

The complete article may be found here