The Times has an amusing piece on the weirdest legal cases decided across the world in 2008. You can read the list here.
I read with particular interest the case from Austria regarding the question of whether a chimpanzee could be considered a person for the purposes of having a guardian appointed following the closure of the animal shelter in which he lived as it raises a few good points relevant for my environmental ethics students. The judge ultimately dismissed the challenge, arguing that the NGO making the claim was not authorised to represent the Chimpanzee, thus relying on an argument similar to Mark Sagoff’s classic question of whether a guardian/NGO really knows if Old Man River would not prefer to create electricity rather than just rolling along. In addition, it is worth noting that while the case appears bizarre, we are likely to see many more similar cases in the future. In particular in light of recent developments in, for instance, Spain where the Spanish Parliament recently adopted a motion expressing support for the so-called Great Ape Project, which is made up of a group of animal rights campaigners campaigning for a series of basic human rights (like the prohibition of torture) to be extended to a number of monkey species, not to mention the recent constitutional changes made in Ecuador where the environment has been afforded a right of existence.