The end goal also goes beyond animal welfare, which would just mean maintaining a minimum level of care for the chimps in their prison-like living situations. If given "personhood" status, chimps would have an avenue to stop being "owned," and therefore stop being moved around or treated poorly at the whims of their owners.
"If a human being is kidnapped and is being held against her will, judges don't debate whether the kidnapper is treating her well or not, they try to give her her freedom back," Wise said. "There's no reason why nonhuman animals should be treated in any different way. We won't have a discussion of whether or not the wardens who have prisoners in their care are treating them well. The question is, 'Should they be there in the first place, or are they entitled to their freedom?'"
What Wise and "Unlocking the Cage" hope to show is that chimps, because of their similarities to humans, deserve these basic legal rights, allowing someone to step in and sue on their behalf, with the ideal result being their release into the care of sanctuaries or back into the wild.
"The Harambe killing has put the legal 'thinghood' of all nonhuman animals and the terrible reality of their lives and deaths in a harsh light," said Wise. "Nonhuman animals like Harambe the gorilla or [Hercules, Leo, Tommy and Kiko] are seen as legal things who can be exploited at our will and imprisoned in zoos or cages."
"But, we have reached a real turning point in how society relates to nonhuman animals," said Wise. "The days when every nonhuman animal is seen as a legal thing subject to be exploited and enslaved are rapidly coming to an end."