Orangutans are persons with rights: Amicus Curiae brief in the Sandai case, requested by the Interspecies Justice Foundation


We argue on consequentialist grounds for the transfer of Sandai, an orangutan, to an orangutan sanctuary. First, we show that satisfying his interest in being transferred brings far greater value than the value achieved by keeping him confined. Second, we show that he has the capacities sufficient for personhood. Third, we show that all persons have a right to relative liberty insofar as they have interests they can exercise only under conditions of relative liberty. Fourth, we show that individuals need not be able to assume social obligations and duties in order to be rights holders. Our argument reflects commitments, as we say, to consequentialist reasoning about moral problems. However, we note that influential representatives of the other dominant ethical traditions—the deontological and Aristotelian traditions—reach our conclusion, too. It makes no difference, in this instance, which ethical theory one adopts. Under all of them, Sandai is a person with an interest in relative liberty entitled to habeas corpus protection.

Author Profiles

Adam Lerner
Rutgers - New Brunswick
Gary Comstock
North Carolina State University


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