I previously pondered the Lessons from Darwin, The IKEA Monkey, wondering if there wasn't something a bit sick about treating one's pet like a child. The famous monkey, found wandering about a Toronto IKEA parking lot in a shearling coat and a diaper, was taken to an animal sanctuary by the authorities and now mom wants him back.
We get to see the question played out in the court of law, in the new Darwin Monkey Trial in Toronto. We don't have Spencer Tracy for the defence, Frederic March for the prosecution and M*A*S*H's good old Harry Morgan as the judge, like they did in Inherit the Wind, but we do have Toronto real estate lawyer Yasmin Nakhuda, Darwin's "mom", fighting for custody.
As the judge who has heard the interim motions has made clear, the case is not a custody battle, since Darwin is not a child. Rather, Nakhuda is asking for an order to recover possession of personal property.
But to Nakhuda, Darwin is much more than just property. She tells the Globe and Mail:
I think when I had my two children I didn’t have time to mother them – I was more focused on building my practice,” Ms. Nakhuda said through tears. “Having Darwin … was like the chance to experience motherhood again. … I treated him like my son. It sounds bizarre to some people, but that’s how we treated him.
The animal sanctuary, which previously accused Nakhuda of cruelty, has withdrawn those charges "in the interest of keeping the trial short." So now it is about the legal question of property rights. In the National Post, lawyer Lesli Bisgould says that it...
...depends on whether the court is convinced Darwin should be looked at as property, or as an animal with individual needs to be met. Ms. Bisgould said the notion that we love our pets, and yet insist on treating them as property is not appropriate or sufficient for an intelligent animal. “The animals are the real victims of this ambivalent relationship we have with them,” she said. “Even if they’re born in captivity, they’re wild animals, and wild animals don’t belong in a house.”