Thought provoking story of a crusading lawyer advocating legal representation for sentient animals. Some view the argument as ridiculous, but it is worth pointing out that the legal representation is only being asked to protect animals from the harmful consequences of human actions, so one can't merely dismiss the issues as irrelevant to human law!
Of course animals are often protected in law, but one thrust of the argument is that in efficacy terms, this protection will only ever be realised if they can be given legal representation.
Obviously this is a highly philosophical dilemma, but worth pointing out how the assumption of human 'uniqueness' is so often undisputed (a pervasive problem in my scientific field of social evolution where people often assume humans are especially altruistic).
As recently as 10 years ago Wise’s effort would have been laughed out of a courtroom. What has made his efforts viable now, however, is in part the advanced neurological and genetic research, which has shown that animals like chimpanzees, orcas and elephants possess self-awareness, self-determination and a sense of both the past and future. They have their own distinct languages, complex social interactions and tool use. They grieve and empathize and pass knowledge from one generation to the next. The very same attributes, in other words, that we once believed distinguished us from other animals. In a 2001 debate with Peter Singer, Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — who has debated Wise as well — argued that only facts will lead to according animals rights, not intuitions. “Much is lost,” Posner stated at one point, “when . . . intuition is made a stage in a logical argument.” And yet in that same debate, Posner stated that the special status we humans accord ourselves is based not on tests or statistics but on “a moral intuition deeper than any reason that could be given for it and impervious to any reason that you or anyone could give against it.” That inherent irrationality at the heart of humanity’s sense of exceptionalism is what most worries Wise.