A chimpanzee is not a legal person, a New York appeals court has decided, saying that no matter how great apes are, they cannot give back to society in a way that merits human rights.

Rejecting an animal rights group’s bid to expand the definition of “legal person” to chimpanzees, a five-judge panel found that although the animals are autonomous beings they do not take part in the societal bargains that guarantee rights like bodily freedom.

In October the attorney Steven Wise, representing the Nonhuman Rights Project, made a case that a privately owned chimpanzee named Tommy was unlawfully imprisoned in New York, and should be transferred to a sanctuary in Florida. Wise argued that chimpanzees, having shown self-awareness, intelligence and empathy, are close enough kin to humans as to deserve some rights.

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