Great ape personhood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bonobos, members of the great ape family

Great ape personhood is a movement to extend personhood and some legal protections to the four non-human members of the Hominidae or great ape family: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.[1]

Well-known advocates include Jane Goodall and Dawn Prince-Hughes (primatologists), Richard Dawkins (former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University), Peter Singer (professor of philosophy at Princeton University), and Steven Wise (legal scholar).[2]

Early legislation[edit]

On February 28, 2007 the parliament of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous community of Spain, passed the world's first legislation that would effectively grant legal personhood rights to all great apes.[3] The act sent ripples out of the region and across Spain, producing public support for the rights of great apes. On June 25, 2008 a parliamentary committee set forth resolutions urging Spain to grant the primates the rights to life and liberty. If approved "it will ban harmful experiments on apes and make keeping them for circuses, television commercials, or filming illegal under Spain's penal code." [4]

These precedents followed years of European legal efforts. In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things.[5] However, in 1999 the Swiss constitution was completely rewritten. A decade later, Germany guaranteed rights to animals in a 2002 amendment to its constitution, becoming the first European Union member to do so.[5][6][7]

New Zealand granted basic rights to five great ape species in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing, or teaching.[8]

Several European countries (including Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden) completely banned the use of great apes in animal testings.[9]

Stances[edit]

Advocacy[edit]

Well-known advocates are primatologist Jane Goodall, appointed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations to fight the bushmeat trade and end ape extinction; Richard Dawkins, former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University; Peter Singer, professor of philosophy at Princeton University; and attorney and former Harvard professor Steven Wise.[2]

Goodall's longitudinal studies revealed the social and family life of chimps to be very similar to that of human beings in some respects. She herself calls them individuals, and says they relate to her as an individual member of the clan. Laboratory studies of ape language ability began to reveal other human traits, as did genetics, and eventually three of the great apes were reclassified as hominids.

This, plus rising ape extinction and the animal rights movement has put pressure on nations to recognize apes as having limited rights and being legal "persons." In response, the United Kingdom introduced a ban on research using great apes, although testing on other primates has not been limited.[10]

Writer and lecturer, Thomas Rose, makes the argument that granting legal rights afforded to humans to non-humans is nothing new. He points out that in the majority of the world, "corporations are recognized as legal persons and are granted many of the same rights humans enjoy, the right to sue, to vote and to freedom of speech."[3] Dawn Prince-Hughes has written that great apes meet all the standards set out for personhood: "self-awareness; comprehension of past, present, and future; the ability to understand complex rules and their consequences on emotional levels; the ability to choose to risk those consequences, a capacity for empathy, and the ability to think abstractly."[11]

Criticism[edit]

Gary Francione, while an animal rights advocate, criticizes the concept of granting personhood because the animal in question is human-like, and argues instead that sentience is the only characteristic a being requires to have basic rights.[12]

Interpretation[edit]

Depending on the precise wording of any proposed or adopted declaration, personhood for the Great Apes may raise questions concerning protections and obligations under national and international laws, such as:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bhagwat, S. B. Foundation of Geology. Global Vision, 2009, pp. 232–235:
    "The Hominidae form a taxonomic family, including five extant genera: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans."
    Groves, Colin P. "Great Apes: The Conflict of Gene-Pools, Conservation and Personhood" in Emily Rousham, Leonard Freedman, and Rayma Pervan. Perspectives in Human Biology: Humans in the Australasian Region. World Scientific, 1996, p. 31:
    "The recognition that we as a species are not phylogenetically separated from other animals, but are nested within the primate group known as the Great Apes, is no longer controversial. Goodman (1963) proposed on this basis to include the great apes (orang utan, gorilla and chimpanzee) in the family Hominidate, a view revived by Groves (1986) and increasingly adopted since then. Increasingly, too, the vernacular term 'Great Apes' has come to be used as a pure synonym for Hominidae, so that humans are also 'Great Apes.' The only remaining systemic controversy seems to be whether chimpanzees and gorillas together form the sister-group of humans, or chimpanzees and humans together constitute the sister-group of gorillas."
    Karcher, Karen. "The Great Ape Project" in Marc Bekoff (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Greenwood, 2009, pp. 185–187:
    "The Great Ape Project (GAP) seeks to extend the scope of three basic moral principles to all members of what the GAP founders call the five great ape species (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans)."
  2. ^ a b Goodall, Jane in Paola Cavalieri & Peter Singer (eds.) The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. St Martin's Griffin, 1994.
    Dawkins, Richard. "Gaps in the Mind" in Paola Cavalieri & Peter Singer (eds.) The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. St Martin's Griffin, 1994.
    Cavalieri, Paola & Singer, Peter (eds.) The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. St Martin's Griffin, 1994.
    Motavalli, Jim. "Rights from Wrongs. A Movement to Grant Legal Protection to Animals is Gathering Force", E Magazine, March/April 2003.
  3. ^ a b Thomas Rose (2007-08-02). "Going ape over human rights". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  4. ^ "Spanish parliament to extend rights to apes". Reuters. 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  5. ^ a b "Germany guarantees animal rights in constitution". Associated Press. 2002-05-18. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  6. ^ "Germany guarantees animal rights". CNN. 2002-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  7. ^ Kate Connolly (2002-06-22). "German animals given legal rights". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-26. [dead link]
  8. ^ "A STEP AT A TIME: NEW ZEALAND'S PROGRESS TOWARD HOMINID RIGHTS" BY ROWAN TAYLOR
  9. ^ http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXII/I/I_00993/fnameorig_043770.html
  10. ^ Alok Jha (2005-12-05). "RSPCA outrage as experiments on animals rise to 2.85m". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  11. ^ Prince-Hughes, Dawn (1987). Songs of the Gorilla Nation. Harmony. p. 138. ISBN 1-4000-5058-8. 
  12. ^ Francione, Gary (2006). The Great Ape Project: Not so Great. Retrieved 2010-03-22.