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Trial on personhood for chimp “Hiasl“

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Martin Balluch1 und Eberhart Theuer2
1 Verein Gegen Tierfabriken, Vienna, Austria
2 University of Vienna, Austria


In 1982, the chimp “Hiasl” was abducted from the Western African jungle to be used in scientific experiments in Austria. Since his abduction was illegal, he was freed at the airport. After long legal battles with the company responsible for his abduction, he grew up in a human family and now lives at a Viennese animal shelter. In 2006, this shelter ran into financial difficulties and “Hiasl” was threatened with deportation. Therefore in 2007, his close friends started legal procedures to have him declared a person and to have a legal guardian appointed for him to represent him in court. Four renowned experts in anthropology, biology and law supported the case scientifically. According to Austrian civil law, all members of the genus “Homo” are persons. Sharing 99.4% of human genes, chimps also belong into this genus. Secondly, it is argued that in the context of civil law the definition of person biologically means possessing a “theory of mind”, which chimps do. Only if “Hiasl” is accepted as a person, his interests will matter and he can be represented in a legal case against his deportation, so that justice could be done. Only as a person, he can collect money for himself. And only as a person, he could start legal procedures, claiming for damages against those responsible for his abduction, to secure his future.

ALTEX 24(4), 335-342
doi: 10.14573/altex.2007.4.335

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