Thursday, June 26, 2008

Equality beyond humanity

The Great Ape Project is a campaign to extend basic human rights and legal protection to the non-human Great Apes (Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Gorillas, and Orangutans) on the basis that they generally share morally significant characteristics with human beings:

They enjoy a rich emotional and cultural existence in which they experience emotions such as fear, anxiety and happiness. They share the intellectual capacity to create and use tools, learn and teach other languages. They remember their past and plan for their future... The Great Ape Project seeks 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.
GAP has just had a significant success in Spain, with a bill to grant such basic protections being endorsed by a Parliamentary committee:
The new resolutions have cross-party or majority support and are expected to become law and the government is now committed to update the statute book within a year to outlaw harmful experiments on apes in Spain.


Keeping apes for circuses, television commercials or filming will also be forbidden and breaking the new laws will become an offence under Spain's penal code.

Keeping an estimated 315 apes in Spanish zoos will not be illegal, but supporters of the bill say conditions will need to improve drastically in 70 per cent of establishments to comply with the new law.

While there's not a lot of great apes in New Zealand (other than the obvious 4 million), this still strikes me as a topic worthy of a members bill. We pride ourselves as being at the forefront of the struggle for human rights; we should be at the forefront of the struggle for hominid rights as well.

Update: A correspondent informs me that the Great Ape Project has already had some success in New Zealand, having been responsible for the addition of s85 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, which bans experimentation on "non-human hominids" unless it is either in the best interests of the individual ape or their own species. Which is great - but shouldn't we be going further?