Today in Spain’s parliament, politicians are scheduled to declare support for rights to life and freedom for great apes. This is probably the first time that any government has recognised the rights of great apes anywhere in the world. Although no actual laws are being passed on the issue yet, more may follow.
The proposal has been put forward by Green MP Francisco Garrido in association with the Spanish wing of The International Great Ape Project. The organisation was founded in 1993 with the aim “to end the unconscionable treatment of our nearest living relatives by obtaining for non-human great apes the fundamental moral and legal protections of the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and protection from torture.” The basic idea is that because we are so genetically similar to great apes and think and feel in similar ways to them, governments should grant them rights and legal protection similar to basic human rights.
‘Great apes’ consists of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans.
Now, granting great apes basic rights opens up a whole load of interesting moral questions. Personally I think it’s a bit egotistic to be granting one animal more rights than another simply because they remind us of ourselves. Would the Spanish parliament be so eager to grant great ape rights if we regularly ate them in sandwiches as we do with the highly intelligent pig ? No doubt it will lead to some lively debate…
More on the BBC Site
More on Reuters
The International Great Ape Project
The Spanish Great Ape Project (in Spanish)