If you look in their faces, the differences between chimpanzees and humans seem to melt away.

Some go so far as to suggest they should be classified as a kind of human.

There’s a movement in the United States to declare two captive apes as persons under the law and give them their freedom.

Two philosophy professors at Dalhousie University have declared their support for the Nonhuman Rights Project.

Kiko and Tommy are living solitary lives with private owners in New York State.

Professors Letitia Meynell and Andrew Fenton have joined an organization dedicated to freeing the two chimps, and many other animals.

“This is just wrong,” says Meynell. “It’s an injustice and the Nonhuman Rights Project is right in trying to get habeas corpus relief to get these chimpanzees released to sanctuary.”

The Latin phrase habeas corpus is a legal term meaning ‘have the body,’ and is a way to appeal to the courts against unjust imprisonment.

There is an attempt to have the chimps declared persons.

Kiko and Tommy’s case has already been in court.

“These are our closest relatives,” adds Fenton, “and we are theirs, and given how complex they are, cognitively and socially.”

Fenton says chimpanzees, in the wild at least, are endangered. They say morally, these animals have rights.

It’s about being able to live full and rich ape lives.

Others say we should treat animals much better than we are, but Robert Bethune, a retired molecular diagnostician, says the legal efforts are going about the wrong way.

“I think it’s an honourable thing,” he says. “So that we treat animals better, but I think the argument is a little bit flawed.”

Bethune says we may have 95-to-98 identical DNA, but percentages are misleading when it comes to genetics.

“What it really means is 150 million base pairs of our DNA are totally different from chimpanzees.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project has lost some of the lawsuits it’s filed, but is appealing one, and launching another.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.