Human Rights for Apes: Spanish Parliament Passes Unprecedented Resolution
By John Jalsevac
Spain, June 26, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - What began fifteen years ago as a fringe cause of the most extreme wing of the environmentalist movement has just yesterday been given an unprecedented level of recognition by the government of a developed Western nation.
A Spanish parliamentary committee yesterday gave its support to a resolution that would grant so-called "great apes" the rights to life, liberty and freedom from torture.
According to numerous mainstream reports, the environmental committee’s resolution is supported across party lines and is expected to be passed by parliament, thereby coming into effect as law.
"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project (GAP). "We have no knowledge of great apes being used in experiments in Spain, but there is currently no law preventing that from happening."
Should the committee’s resolution become law a major new animal rights precedent would be established making it illegal in Spain to use apes, including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans in experiments.
According to a Reuters report, it will also become illegal to keep apes in circuses, or for the purposes of television commercials or filming.
The movement to grant apes human rights began in earnest fifteen years ago with the founding of GAP in 1993. Peter Singer, the same Princeton bioethicist who has argued that doctors should be permitted to kill newborn infants up to the age of 30 days old, has been one of the primary intellectual forces behind the movement.
Since it’s inception GAP has lobbied in favor of a UN Declaration on Great Apes. That Declaration demands, "the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans.
"The community of equals is the moral community within which we accept certain basic moral principles or rights as governing our relations with each other and enforceable at law."
The list of "moral principles or rights" includes the three "rights" included in the Spanish parliamentary committee’s resolution. Currently, however, it is not clear what penalties, if any, would be levied against an ape should an ape violate these moral principles by, for example, killing or injuring a human being or another ape in a case where it was not necessary for self defence.
To those who have been observing events in Spain these last several years under the socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, it comes as no surprise that such an unprecedented resolution would be passed first in Spain.
Prime Minister Zapatero’s Socialist government has taken Spain from being one of the most conservative countries in Europe, to being one of the most "progressive." Since coming into power the Zapatero government has legalized homosexual "marriage", marginalized the Catholic Church and the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage on the whole, opened access to abortion, and otherwise embraced nearly every anti-life, anti-family, anti-tradition and anti-religious trend currently making its way through the West.
Spain, however, is not the only Western country to take seriously the movement to grant legal rights to beings other than humans. In fact, the push for legal rights for non-humans took a step into new territory within the last several months with the release of a report by the Swiss Ethics Committee on Non Human Gene Technology (ECNH). The ECNH, which had previously released reports on primates and animals, broke new ground by exploring the "dignity" of plants.
ECNH’s study of plants stated, "The Committee members unanimously consider an arbitrary harm caused to plants to be morally impermissible. This kind of treatment would include, e.g. decapitation of wild flowers at the roadside without rational reason." A majority of the committee also concluded that plants, "are excluded for moral reasons from absolute ownership. By this interpretation no one may handle plants entirely according to his/her own desires."
While traditional Judeo/Christian morality has always acknowledged that God’s creations, or nature, be always treated with respect, GAP, Peter Singer, and the like are instead promoting a utilitarian philosophy that denies the very distinction between plants, animals and humans, putting them on a fundamentally equal footing.
As bioethicist Wesley Smith explains on his blog in a post on the Spanish resolution, "Of course the purpose of this isn’t to merely improve the treatment of great apes - which could be accomplished as it already has been in some places via normal animal welfare statutes. Rather, the explicit point of the GAP is revolutionary - to demote human beings from the uniquely valuable species and into merely another animal in the forest.
"Once people accept that premise," he continues, "Judeo/Christian philosophy goes to the guillotine allowing the utilitarian agenda to proceed unhindered, leading in turn to the moral value of the weak and vulnerable among us becoming archaic, resulting in their loss of the right to life and being used instrumentally for those deemed more valuable. (Lest you think we exaggerate, check out Peter Singer’s writings, and who can deny that his values are triumphing?)"
Smith concludes, "In the world being born out of the ashes of the sanctity/equality of human life ethic, value will be subjective and rights temporary - depending on one’s individual capacities rather than humanity. And we will see apes - animals (and eventually other animals), which are completely oblivious about the hue and cry being mounted against human worth in their names - being viewed as more important than some humans."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
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