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2 S. Cross U. L. Rev. 1 (1998)
The Koko Dilemma - A Challenge to Legal Personality

handle is hein.journals/socrosu2 and id is 9 raw text is: The Koko Dilemma

A Challenge to Legal Personality
Jane Nosworthy*
The concept of legal personality has developed to embrace all
human beings, as well as a variety of non-human entities. Can
this concept evolve further in response to societal change? Can
legal personality be extended to animals? In the author's view,
there is nothing inherent in the concept of legal personality which
prevents its extension to animals. The author considers the past
and present legal status of animals, and the possibility of
altering animals' current status as legal 'non-persons',
contending that not only is such change possible, but would be
Imagine if you will...
This is a description of a remarkable being.' This being
understands spoken English and communicates in sign
language, employing a vocabulary in excess of one thousand
words. She is also learning to read. She has been observed
making faces at herself in front of a mirror.   If she has
misbehaved, she has been known to lie in order to avoid the
consequences of her behaviour. She paints and draws, and
enjoys imaginary play, alone or with others. She laughs at
jokes. Sometimes, if hurt or frightened or left alone, she cries
or screams. She can talk about her feelings and about what
happens when one dies. She grieves for her cat, who died in a
car accident.
This being's name is Koko, and she is a gorilla. Clearly, she is
not a human being. Could she be a person?
Bioethicist Peter Singer is among those who would argue that
Koko is as much a person as she is a gorilla. This paper
explores some issues related to the extension of personhood to
include nonhuman animals like Koko. In particular, it focuses
on the question of whether there is anything inherent in the
Final year LLB student, University of Adelaide.
1 The author is indebted for this description of Koko to Patterson, F, and
Gordon, W, The Case for the Personhood of Gorillas, in Cavalieri, P, and
Singer, P, (eds), The Great Ape Project Equahty Beyond Humanity, Fourth
Estate, London, 1993, pp 58-9.


Vol 2 - November 1998

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