Should Chimps have human rights?

Last night, I caught news that Brazilian courts are considering giving chimpanzees human rights, and following suite, Austria may as well give non-human great apes human rights. This may sound alright and dandy, maybe even give some empathy and fuel towards the conservation effort of Great Apes, but I don’t like this news one bit.

Why you ask?

Well, I don’t feel like summarizing my arguments that I announced a year ago, around the very same time, when the government of Spain issued a bill which called for human rights to other primates… but you can read my comments here. Even recently, in this forum thread, I have argued that non-human primates are not humans.

Humans and other primates do share an evolutionary history, but we are not the same, and I feel that part of the problem with these human rights bills for primates, is that many people have a misconception that primates are our direct ancestors, where we share a monophyletic lineage, which is not completely true.

Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see conditions improve for primates both in the wild and in capitivity, but I do not feel that by giving them rights that will do anything. Maybe violators of these ‘human rights’ placed on primates might be brought to justice… but my gut feeling is that this is all a misdirected effort.

How do you feel about this? Should primates have human rights? If so, which primates… and how does one choose?

6 thoughts on “Should Chimps have human rights?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s a silly argument altogether. There’s a reason we have exclusive rights to the term “human:” we are a completely unique species. It’s not that we don’t have many similarities, because we do (self-awareness, large range of emotions, language potential, etc.), it’s that while we may have both descended from the trees, for whatever reason, we went on to build high-rises, write novels, create symphonies, and cook duck l’orange. And as if these arguments weren’t enough for me, what does granting other great apes “human” status really accomplish. A supreme title sure, but will it really affect their populations or habitats? Most likely not. Wouldn’t it be far more productive to work towards basic rights for all animals? Isn’t that the point anyhow? Does an animal need to share “x” number of human traits to be granted rights? Soon enough we’ll figure out that we all have basic rights, man and beast, and if we don’t grant all being these rights we will find ourselves in one very precarious situation.

  2. i dont think it makes sense to give human rights to apes,what is it to be human,to be an animal,to be non-humans,if we are tp protect animals from abuse,exinction lets promulgate legislatin that deals with that,instaed of trying to give them human rights,what is to be human,to have rights means you have responsibities,with those rights will they be held liable for wrongs committed,will they become legal subjects in our law.

  3. Humans and other animals deserve fair treatment based on due consideration. Perhaps there should be a set of governing principles regarding the rights of all apes–including humans–rather than to take set set of rights that have been claimed by some humans for all humans, without all human societies accepting or agreeing that these are universal human rights, or agreeing to enforce them. Do we really want people to feel that what they think is acceptable behavior toward their fellow humans is acceptable toward the nonhuman apes?

  4. Primates should have basic human rights. Right to freedom, right to life. They should not be tested on, caged in, abused. If you look at it morhpologically, they are 98% genetically identical to us. The change the term human rights, to person rights. Something that can feel emotion, something that can be happy, something that can feel scared, pain etc. Just becuase apes aren’t at the same level of our cognition means next to nothing. Would you take away the rights of a perosn in a coma, or a mentally handicapped person who is mentally inferior to a chimp or gorilla. What about a 1 month old baby who has no emotions. Apese, along with other animals express emotions that sometimes are superior to that of some humans. How can you not give them the basic human rights. I’m not arguing that they should get to vote, or drive cars, or own property, but they desevrve the basic human freedom which all things of this Earth have when they are brought into this world.

  5. Although I definitely support extending the legal rights of primates, I have to say I share the feelings expressed above that granting “human rights” exclusively to primates is not the way to go. What this will accomplish is simply ease the guilt of certain people that can then say “we don’t have to do anything, it’s the government’s job” and point at the law.

    I have a special passion for primates, but I realise this is the same that another person may feel for dolphins, or cats, or parrots. The point is: we should stop putting up barriers between species and arbitrarily decide that some species are worth more than others. None of us can truly function without the others.

    We modern cityfolk can barely understand what it means to be part of the foodchain, but try going to a traditional chinese restaurant and pick a fish out of the tank that you will eat. Now imagine this is a cow, or sheep, or chicken. I’m not advocating everyone should be a vegetarian, but we should understand our place on this planet, and it’s okay if we feel a little guilty about killing another individual because we’re hungry. We’ll be better humans because of it.

    What I would like to advocate is a “right to life” bill, which could include sections about the care for animals living in husbandry, experimenting, and rules surrounding the use of animals for other purposes than food. It should give all animals the right to live a life free of disease, hunger and unnecessary stress, and a quick and painless death if this is needed. It should be up to the person keeping the animals to prove that they are providing these conditions, not up to others to prove they’re not. In other words: permits put in place that require documentation and approval.
    How’s that for a start?

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