A federal appeals court dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit filed by animal rights activists over the treatment of primates.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court’s 1996 decision that had ordered the Agriculture Department to write new rules aimed at improving the animals’ treatment.
The appellate judges found that the Animal Legal Defense Fund and four individuals who brought the lawsuit did not have legal standing to sue because they had suffered no direct injury from the department’s current rules.
The activists detailed what they said were several abuses at zoos - such as a chimpanzees whose hands were covered with cuts and other primates housed in isolation - and said they had suffered emotionally from seeing the animals treated that way.
“It is part of the price of living in society, perhaps especially free society, that an individual will observe conduct that he or she dislikes,” Judge David Sentelle wrote for the appeals court.
The judges also determined that even if the lawsuit had caused new rules to be written, the activists would have been unlikely to have had their emotional distress alleviated.
Valerie Stanley, attorney for the animal rights group, noted that appellate Judge Patricia Wald’s dissent pointed out that the ruling would make it harder for average citizens to challenge government rules.
“It says basically that whenever an agency decides that it simply will not carry out a statutory mandate, people cannot complain about its failure to act,” Stanley said.