Saturday, March 31, 2007


Unsurprisingly, there is a movement afoot to grant apes 'human' rights:
They need greater protection in the eyes of the law, says Ian Redmond of the UN's Great Apes Survival Project, who believes welfare groups could use guardianship as a way to rescue ill-treated apes.

Some rights are conferred on apes but only because they are endangered. And the international trade ban is flouted in Africa and South-East Asia, where mothers are shot and their infants shipped off as pets, circus performers or lab animals. Vivisection on apes is banned in much of Europe but still goes on in the US and Japan.

"Apes are special because they are so closely related to us," says Mr Redmond. "Chimpanzees and bonobos are our joint closest living relatives, differing by only one per cent of DNA - so close we could accept a blood transfusion or a kidney. Gorillas are next, then orang-utans."

But there is a stronger cognitive argument, he says, because the apes' intelligence and ability to reason demands our respect.

The move is a result of evolutionary theory, of cours, but such things have always puzzled me as evolution is by definition the survival of the fittest. In such a world on what basis can any being have 'rights'?

Professor Steve Jones argues for a little perspective:
But Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University of London, says human rights are a construct which can't be imposed on animals.

"Where do you stop? It seems to be that being human is unique and nothing to do with biology. Say that apes share 98% of human DNA and therefore should have 98% of human rights. Well mice share 90% of human DNA. Should they get 90% of human rights? And plants have more DNA than humans."

Chimps can't speak but parrots can. Defining creatures and allowing them rights based on criteria invented by one group is itself an enormous breach of human rights, he says, and one need look no further than Austria in 1939 to see why.

"Rights and responsibilities go together and I've yet to see a chimp imprisoned for stealing a banana because they don't have a moral sense of what's right and wrong. To give them rights is to give them something without asking for anything in return."

There is a moral case to make about animal welfare, he says, but it has nothing to do with science.

Yes, care for an animal has to do with man's responsibilities rather than the animal's rights. Proverbs 12:10 tells us: "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel."

No comments: