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Some of my best friends are apes
July 8th, 2008 by Sam

Should humans extend ‘human rights’ to (other) apes? Other in parentheses because, after all, we are apes too.

That’s the question they are debating right now in Spain – whether to grant limited rights to our closest biological relatives – the great apes – which includes chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans.

So, what would it mean?

  • It would become illegal to kill an ape, except in self-defense.
  • Torture and imprisonment would become strictly forbidden. This includes medical experiments, and circuses and films.
  • Apes in zoos would not be released, but would be treated better.

What does it not mean?

  • Apes do not get to drive cars, bear arms, and so on. Their status would be similar to children.

Do you agree? I have to say, I find this compelling. I know that bonobos, orangutans, and chimps can communicate with words – perhaps not spoken, but they understand. They all understand the concept of ‘the self.’ I hate the idea of medical/science testing on apes. I don’t believe in a soul, so I reject the notion that humans are superior in any metaphysical sense.

Yet, many humans aren’t afforded the same rights that Spain is now granting to nonhumans. The notion that we are going to so much trouble for these creatures when we have so far to go with humans does make me uncomfortable. I remember when I first learned that Africans felt that many Europeans and European Americans cared more about the animals in Africa than the people.

And as the article points out… what is Spain going to do about bullfighting?


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