Celebrity animal rights lawyer Steven Wise usually steers clear of
zoos, which is why we take him to the one in Auckland.
On the way to see Janie, the last tea party chimp, I explain her
performances were a long time ago and the zoo is quite different
today. Wise is concerned because chimps are complex and social animals
and Janie is now on her own.
"The whole idea there'd be a single chimpanzee is awful to think
about. It's like being in a solitary confinement for a human," he
Wise is interested in seeing Janie because he plans to go to court in
an attempt to get fundamental human rights for chimpanzees.
He's deadly serious. He just hasn't decided on the jurisdiction and he
needs to find an appropriate chimp.
In between working on the chimpanzee test case, he is writing a book
about the horror of the lives of farm animals and the cognitive
abilities of pigs.
He was in Auckland to give a lecture on animal rights law at the
invitation of Auckland University's Law Faculty.
Wise, an American, is a pioneer in this field and has practised solely
in animal rights law for decades. In 2000 he was the first person to
teach the subject at elite Harvard Law School in Massachusetts, an
achievement credited with being instrumental in convincing faculties
around the world that animal rights law is a field worthy of study.