Here’s a headline that caught my eye a couple of days ago:
Great Apes Should Have Human Rights, Say Spanish MPs
My immediate reaction was to double-check the calendar. You know, if it were April 1st, I could dismiss the whole thing as a reporter just monkeying around with a catchy headline. But the article wasn’t a joke. According to the report, a number of the members of parliament (MPs) in Spain have been lobbying the government to adopt something called the “Great Ape Project” (GAP).
What’s that? This article didn’t elaborate so I did a little digging around. The roots of GAP go back some fourteen years. In 1994, Peter Singer, professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, author of Animal Liberation, and the man credited as the father of the modern animal rights movement, co-edited a book called The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. In it, Singer presents essays by various biologists, lawyers, anthropologists, and fellow philosophers pitching the idea of welcoming apes into “the community of equals.” How?
By extending three basic human protections to non-human counterparts:
1. The right to life
2. Protection of individual liberty
3. Prohibition of torture
If passed, the measure would confer these basic human rights to bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans–who are, according to Pedro Pozas, Director of GAP in Spain, our “evolutionary comrades.” Furthermore, the Great Ape Project desires to extend the right of due process of law to apes. You might want to read that again.
Through an Ape Advocate, apes could have their day in court if they are unfairly imprisoned or harmed. I’m not making this up. Tell me that wouldn’t throw a monkey wrench into the already burdened court system.
In terms of protecting the “individual liberty” of apes, this means great apes could no longer be placed into captivity at the zoo or used in a circus routine. Likewise, great apes would not be permitted for use in biomedical research. (I’m unsure how Mr. Singer reconciles this declaration with the fact that two years ago he endorsed the limited usage of monkeys for research into finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.)
Don’t get me wrong. I believe the treatment of animals by humans must reflect respect and care. At the same time, the move to extend human rights and legal rights to tree-dwelling primates as if they are human lacks common sense.
If passed in Spain as some expect it will next year, the GAP measure under consideration states that the use of apes in TV commercials or in films will become a crime. I’m not sure why using monkeys in movies or commercials is an issue. There are long lines of humans seeking work in both of those industries.
What is unclear is whether or not the MPs also want to ban the <em>likeness</em> of apes in film in order to be sensitive. Will movies like Planet of the Apes and King Kong soon be banned in Spain? Will kids still be allowed to “monkey around” with each other on the “monkey bars”? Or, is such language demeaning?
But I digress.
Do you see an irony immerging here?
Activists want to grant apes “human rights” at a time in world history when human life and liberty are threatened. What about the right to liberty for children and women forced into slavery or prostitution? What about the rights of a preborn human baby? Where is the outcry over the human rights violations in various hot spots around the world? Take the genocide in Darfur. Estimates by various world and health organizations place the number of people who have died between 200,000 and 400,000 with another two million driven from their homes.
Evidently the same zeal driving the protection of apes isn’t extended in the fight to protect humans. Frankly, I take issue with the Great Apes Project or any movement that would give animals “human rights” and the due process of the law. Think about where this way of thinking leads: If Spain grants apes human rights, what happens if someone were to accidentally kill a monkey by running it over with a car? Would they be charged with involuntary ape-slaughter and be forced to serve jail time?
That’s a fair question.
And what about Spain’s long and controversial tradition of bull fighting and running with the bulls? Don’t bovines have rights, too? Actually, that’s part of the longer term deal. If you examine the agenda of those who lobby for GAP, you’ll find that granting human rights to apes is just the first step toward viewing all animals as being no different than people. Apes today, antelopes tomorrow, ants the next day. According to these activists, animals and human beings are just one big happy extended “superfamily.”
You might wonder why advocates like Peter Singer are driven to blur the line between humans and animals. The answer may surprise you. It lies in the fact that Mr. Singer, a self-professed atheist, believes that God does not exist. As such, he is uncomfortable with the notion that men and women are “created” in the image of God, as Christians and Jews believe. Eliminating the distinction between humans and animals is consistent with a view of life devoid of a Creator God who, in fact, gave mankind a special place in the created order.
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