By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

VIENNA, May 23, 2008 ( – Austrian animal rights activists who tried and failed to get a chimpanzee legally declared a person have taken their battle to the European Court of Human Rights.

  Austria’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in January that rejected a request to appoint a legal guardian for the chimp, who has been given the human-sounding name Matthew Hiasl Pan. reported last April on the initiation of this case, which was spearheaded by Dr. Martin Balluch, president of Austria’s Association Against Animal Factories, and centered around animal rights activist and British teacher Paula Stibbe’s request to be appointed as the chimps guardian if the bankrupt animal sanctuary where he lives in Vienna is forced to close.

  In dismissing the activists’ request to appoint a guardian for the animal, the lower court ruled that “Matthew” was neither mentally impaired nor in danger, the legal grounds required for a guardian to be appointed. It did not directly address the issue of whether a chimpanzee can be considered a person.

  The activists responded by filing an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which has agreed to a preliminary hearing to determine whether chimpanzees are entitled to the legal status and protections granted to human beings. 

  Miss Stibbe said she is not trying to get the chimp declared a human, just a person. “Everybody who knows him personally will see him as a person,” she told the London Evening Standard.

“In his home in the African jungle, he would have been well able to look after himself without a guardian. Since he has no close relatives, I am doing this as the person closest to him.”

  A spokesman for the court in Strasbourg said, “Any application regarding this chimpanzee will be considered at a primary level by a magistrate and a lawyer before we decide whether it deserves a full-blown hearing.”

  The consequence of a successful outcome for the animal rights group would be the setting of legal precedent for monkeys and possibly other animals to receive the rights, protections, and even medical, financial, and social benefits of human beings.

  It may even establish the groundwork for a legal challenge on “Matthew’s” behalf to give him the right to vote, in which case the LifeSiteNews epithet “Loonie England” may be somewhat extended to other nearby realms.

  Read previous coverage:

  Austrian Court to Decide if Chimpanzee is Deserving of “Human Status”