"We demand the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans"
"We demand the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans.
The community of equals is the moral community within which we accept certain basic moral principles or rights as governing our relations with each other and enforceable at law. Among these principles or rights are the following:
1. The Right to Life
The lives of members of the community of equals are to be protected. Members of the community of equals may not be killed except in very strictly defined circumstances, for example, self-defense.
2. The Protection of Individual Liberty
Members of the community of equals are not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; if they should be imprisoned without due legal process, they have the right to immediate release. The detention of those who havenot been convicted of any crime, or of those who are not criminally liable, should be allowed only where it can be shown to be for their own good, or necessary to protect the public from a member of the community who wouldclearly be a danger to others if at liberty. In such cases, members of the community of equals must have the right to appeal, either directly or, if they lack the relevant capacity, through an advocate, to a judicial tribunal.
3. The Prohibition of Torture
The deliberate infliction of severe pain on a member of the community of equals, either wantonly or for an alleged benefit to others, is regarded as torture, and is wrong...
Madrid - In earlier times, man was seen as a special creature - the image of God and the lord of creation.
Yet with the Spanish parliament preparing to debate the rights of great apes as 'persons,' the traditional view of man and animal could be about to definitively change.
'I am an ape,' says Pedro Pozas, secretary-general in Spain of the international Great Ape Project, which wants the United Nations to grant gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutangs and bonobos something comparable to human rights.
Humans and great apes are part of the same hominid family, champions of ape rights say, stressing that the behaviour of apes resembles that of humans more than had previously been recognized.
Spain's governing Socialist Party is promoting an initiative to recognize great apes as different from other animals, to protect their habitat and to prohibit their use in circuses.
The measures would also ban scientific experiments with great apes, something that has already been practically abolished in Europe.
Spain would thus become the first European country to adopt measures such as those proposed by the decade-old Great Ape Project, which seeks three basic rights for apes: the rights to life, to liberty and to not being tortured.
'The only other country to have adopted comparable measures is New Zealand,' Pozas told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.
Currently, Spanish zoos and circuses often keep apes in small cages. They may be castrated, have their teeth removed or vocal cords cut to control them.
Environment Minister Cristina Narbona believes promoting the rights of apes would increase the general consciousness of animal rights in a country known for its bullfights and bloodsports.
The Socialist initiative is, however, facing opposition from critics ranging from the Catholic Church to human rights activists.
'Too much progress becomes ridiculous,' archbishop Fernando Sebastian said, criticizing moves to promote the rights of apes when abortions violated the human rights of embryos.
Amnesty International representative Delia Padron stressed that not even the rights of all human beings were being respected.
The police trade union ASIGC called the initiative 'silly,' asking ironically for 'ape rights' for its members who were attempting to improve their labour conditions.
Champions of ape rights counter that awareness of animals as suffering beings increases awareness of human rights.
Orangutangs, gorillas and chimpanzees share between 96 and 99 per cent of their genetic material with humans.
'Great apes have self-control, a sense of the past and of the future, a capacity to mourn' and to use tools, explained Francisco Garrido, the MP who launched the ape rights initiative in parliament.
'Not only can chimpanzees learn up to 500 words and communicate through a computer, but they also use up to 50 medicinal plants for diarrhoea, vomiting or parasites,' primate expert Jordi Savater Pi said.
'When a chimpanzee takes your hand to tell you something, you feel that you are dealing with a special creature,' Pozas says.
He concedes that apes are not like humans, but describes them as 'kinds of persons.'
Western man's traditional view of himself as a unique creature has already been modified by evolutionist theories, Pozas observes.
'We need to break the barrier between the species,' he says, adding that such a change would help man preserve the environment instead of destroying it.
Pozas expects the Spanish parliament to approve the ape rights initiative, which has received backing from academics in some 70 universities around the world.
He stresses it is not sufficient to recognize rights for great apes, whose survival is threatened by deforestation, hunting, trafficking and disease.
'We need to help developing countries protect the forests where apes live,' Pozas says.
The Great Ape Debate Unfolds In Europe
By PETER SINGER
PRINCETON, New Jersey -- In his "History of European Morals,"
Published in 1869, the Irish historian and philosopher W.E.H. Lecky wrote:
At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.
The expansion of the moral circle could be about to take a significant step forward. Francisco Garrido, a bioethicist and member of Spain's parliament, has moved a resolution exhorting the government "to declare its adhesion to the Great Ape Project and to take any necessary measures in international forums and organizations for the protection of great apes from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction."
The resolution would not have the force of law, but its approval would mark the first time that a national legislature has recognized the special status of great apes and the need to protect them, not only from extinction, but also from individual abuse.
I founded the Great Ape Project together with Paola Cavalieri, an Italian philosopher and animal advocate, in 1993. Our aim was to grant some basic rights to the nonhuman great apes: life, liberty and the prohibition of torture. The project has proven controversial. Some opponents argue that, in extending rights beyond our own species, it goes too far, while others claim that, in limiting rights to the great apes, it does not go far enough.
We reject the first criticism entirely. There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species. If we were to meet intelligent, sympathetic extraterrestrials, would we deny them basic rights because they are not members of our own species? At a minimum, we should recognize basic rights in all beings who show intelligence and awareness (including some level of self-awareness) and who have emotional and social needs.
We are more sympathetic to the second criticism. The Great Ape
Project does not reject the idea of basic rights for other animals. It merely asserts that the case for such rights is strongest in respect to great apes. The work of researchers like Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey, Birute Galdikas, Frans de Waal, and many others amply demonstrates that the great apes are intelligent beings with strong emotions that in many ways resemble our own.
Chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas have long-term relationships, not only between mothers and children, but also between unrelated apes.
When a loved one dies, they grieve for a long time. They can solve complex puzzles that stump most 2-year-old humans. They can learn hundreds of signs, and put them together in sentences that obey grammatical rules. They display a sense of justice, resenting others who do not reciprocate a favor.
When we group chimpanzees together with, say, snakes, as "animals," we imply that the gap between us and chimpanzees is greater than the gap between chimpanzees and snakes. But in evolutionary terms this is nonsense. Chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest relatives, and we humans, not gorillas or orangutans, are their closest relatives.
Indeed, three years ago, a group of scientists led by Derek Wildman proposed, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that chimpanzees have been shown to be so close to humans genetically that they should be included in the genus Homo.
Like any important and novel idea, Garrido's proposal has aroused considerable debate in Spain. Some are concerned that it will interfere with medical research. But the only European biomedical research that has used great apes recently is the Biomedical Primate Research Center at Rijswijk, in the Netherlands. In 2002, a review by the Dutch Royal Academy of Science found that the chimpanzee colony there was not serving any vital research purposes. The Dutch government subsequently banned biomedical research on chimpanzees. Thus, there is no European medical research currently being conducted on great apes, and one barrier to granting them some basic rights has collapsed.
Some of the opposition stems from misunderstandings. Recognizing the
rights of great apes does not mean that they all must be set free, even those born and bred in zoos, who would be unable to survive in the wild. Nor does it rule out euthanasia if that is in the interest of individual apes whose suffering cannot be relieved. Just as some humans are unable to fend for themselves and need others to act as their guardians, so, too, will great apes living in the midst of human communities. What extending basic rights to great apes does mean is that they will cease to be mere things that can be owned and used for our amusement or entertainment.
A final group of opponents recognizes the strength of the case for extending rights to great apes, but worries that this may pave the way for the extension of rights to all primates, or all mammals, or all animals. They could be right. Only time will tell. But that is irrelevant to the merits of the case for granting basic rights to the great apes. We should not be deterred from doing right now by the fear that we may later be persuaded that we should do right again.Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. His most recent book, coauthored with Jim Mason, is "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.