Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spain grants rights to great apes

In what will undoubtedly be the first of many such stories over the coming years, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Spain is in the process of granting rights to gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans, becoming the first country to explicitly acknowledge the legal rights of nonhumans.

The story is receiving a lot of press in major publications, many of which are calling it the start of a trend. Here's some excerpts from a few. The Times of London:

In what is thought to be the first time a national legislature has granted such rights to animals, the Spanish parliament’s environmental committee voted to approve resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, designed by scientists and philosophers who say that humans’ closest biological relatives also deserve rights.

The resolution, adopted with crossparty support, calls on the Government to promote the Great Apes Project internationally and ensure the protection of apes from “abuse, torture and death”. “This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights,” Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, told The Times. “It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades.”

The Guardian U.K.:

Using apes in circuses, television commercials or filming will also be banned and while housing apes in Spanish zoos, of which there are currently 315, will remain legal, supporters of the bill have said the conditions in which most of them live will need to improve substantially.

In 1999, scientists and lawyers petitioned New Zealand's parliament to pass a bill conferring "rights" on chimpanzees and other primates. The government gave the great apes something less than human rights, but also something more practical: legal protection from animal experimentation.

The first country to take such a decision was Britain: Home Office guidelines now forbid experiments on chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas
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