Toward Legal Rights for Animals
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A potentially historic work on the legal case for animal rights that shoots itself in the paw with shrill terms and tactics.

Wise, who teaches animal-rights law at Harvard Law School and elsewhere, is a prominent legal defender and activist for

animals. His specialty is the highly intelligent and endangered chimpanzee species favored by biomedical researchers, zookeepers,

and African chefs. Wise takes us to academic facilities where scientists convincingly demonstrate the chimp's ability to understand

cause and effect, use tools, and even perform basic mathematical calculations. The evidence is clear that these mistreated creatures

are more "human" than young or brain-damaged Homo sapiens. Their neurology and genetic structure warrant reclassifying them

within the genus Homo. Therefore, argues Wise, chimpanzees deserve at least the same legal rights and protections awarded to

children and other people unable to speak for themselves. Unfortunately, Wise switches at this point from cogent attorney and

law professor to agitated activist and polemicist. He not only demands legal "personhood" for his simian clients, but often refers

to their destruction as "genocide." Reviewing the history of law and religion, he blames their insistence on the sanctity of human

life for "the legal thinghood of nonhuman animals." Wise celebrates 19th-century atheism and scientism which, he believes,

proved "that the universe was not designed at all, much less designed for humans." In his narrow metal cage of a worldview,

anyone who believes that evolution was divinely directed, that beings who understand ethics (not just basic syntax) may be

supreme, or that some humans feel biblically forbidden even from yoking two unequal beasts together (in the name of divine

animal rights) is a worse enemy of animals than the enlightened scientists who routinely torture and maim them for knowledge

and profit.

Radical monkeyshines ruin this well-intentioned treatise. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7382-0065-4
Page count: 332pp
Publisher: Perseus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000


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