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Should Chimps Have Human Rights? 1019

Posted by kdawson
from the our-brothers'-keepers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A Brazilian court has already issued a writ of habeas corpus in the name of a chimp. And now an Austrian court may well decide that a chimpanzee is a 'person' with what up until now have been called human rights." From the story in the Guardian/Observer: "He recognizes himself in the mirror, plays hide-and-seek and breaks into fits of giggles when tickled. He is also our closest evolutionary cousin. A group of world leading primatologists argue that this is proof enough that Hiasl, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, deserves to be treated like a human. In a test case in Austria, campaigners are seeking to ditch the 'species barrier' and have taken Hiasl's case to court. If Hiasl is granted human status — and the rights that go with it — it will signal a victory for other primate species and unleash a wave of similar cases."
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Should Chimps Have Human Rights?

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  • Great Apes Project (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:33AM (#18600917)
    See also: Great Apes Project [greatapeproject.org]
    • by kestasjk (933987) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:53AM (#18601073) Homepage
      Rights come with responsibilities. If we give chimps human rights will they pay their taxes and obey the law?

      Treating them humanely doesn't have to mean giving them human rights.
  • I don't know (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aussie_a (778472)
    I don't know if Chimps should have human rights. I think what we need to do is research that does work to gauge how well chimps could cope in human society when raised in that society and how intelligent they can then become.

    Then compare that with the lowest human being and work your way up through the human being scale (if the chimp is better then the lowest human beings we have) until we find a type of human (most likely suffering some form of mental retardation) that is comparable with your average chimp
    • Re:I don't know (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sg_oneill (159032) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:51AM (#18601501)
      I think the problem with this is we really have to ask what does it *mean* to be a 'person'. Lets drop the word 'human' and use 'person', and *why* do we consider 'people' to be so important.

      Lets take the example of someone so profoundly brain damaged that they walk about with a knife and stab someone thinking that person is a loaf of bread. Generally most reasonable minded people accept that as sad as it is, the person with the knife simply is not capable of aprehending the responsibility of not stabbing the person, as its understood that to enact a responsibility, you have to be rational enough to understand it.

      So instead we might put the crazy person in some sort of care with some protections to make sure they cant do it, but we are not *punishing* them for failing that responsibility, because we understand they are incapable of fullfilling it.

      But that doesnt mean the crazy person doesnt have some basic rights, such as the right to life, or the right to not be beaten up or whatever. Rights dont necesarily justify an ability to understand them to be valid. Responsibilitys do, because I'd argue rights are passive and responsibilitys are active.

      Not ALL rights are removed from responsibility admitedly. Someone crazy enough to think its ok to shoot people for lols SHOULDNT have a gun. But someone with the rationality to be responsible with the gun arguably SHOULD have the right (assuming you think its a good right).

      Now, lets look at the monkey. The monkey has a bunch of attributes we associate with personhood. They appear to be self aware. They appear to possess a basic level of empathy. They can, with the correct training, communicate basic abstract concepts. They fall in love, and love to fuck. They get angry and hate on stuff. Pretty much stuff "people" do.

      But they cant read a book, or drive a car (perhaps) or hold down a steady job, or surf the net. But many "people" cant do this either. Infants cant. People with profound downs syndrome cant either, but we'd never deny them personhood.

      Peter singer (slightly contraversial australian philosopher) argues the capacity for suffering is a pretty good determinant for judging the right to moral consideration, and who'd deny a monkeys capacity to suffer.

      I'd suggest whilst the full range of 'human' rights would not fully be apropriate for monkeys, as they cant cope with the responsibilitys or understand them (although arming chimps WOULD be hilarious at a distance) , we can certainly derive a subset of rights they should be able to expect (the right to life, the right not to be tortured, the right for a human advocate to sue on their behalf for loss of rights, etc) based on the facts at hand.

      If, as many scientists believe, chimps experience the world with similar emotional colour to us, vivisection and shit really does become an horrible horrible thing to contemplate empathetically.

      Give the fuzzy guys some rights!
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:44AM (#18602943) Homepage
        I'd suggest whilst the full range of 'human' rights would not fully be apropriate for monkeys, as they cant cope with the responsibilitys or understand them (although arming chimps WOULD be hilarious at a distance) , we can certainly derive a subset of rights they should be able to expect (the right to life, the right not to be tortured, the right for a human advocate to sue on their behalf for loss of rights, etc) based on the facts at hand.

        Chimps are chimps. They don't want to be people, they want to be chimps. The only right we need to grant them is the right to be chimps in peace. It has nothing to do with their capability, that's a red herring. They're chimps. Highly intelligent, self-aware, sentient if you ask me (but don't ask me to define it), and also not human. They're chimps. Anthropomorphizing them and asking if they should be considered "people", or comparing them to disabled humans, is to violate their right to be chimps.

        So as far as I'm concerned, it's very clear. We shouldn't be performing medical experiments or capturing or hunting chimps or destroying their habitat (more), but that's it. That's all they need. We just need to start respecting the other life forms on this planet, not dressing them up in suits and expecting them to be people. They won't be, don't want to be, and are just fine as they are.
        • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:23AM (#18604605)

          So as far as I'm concerned, it's very clear. We shouldn't be performing medical experiments or capturing or hunting chimps or destroying their habitat (more), but that's it. That's all they need. We just need to start respecting the other life forms on this planet, not dressing them up in suits and expecting them to be people. They won't be, don't want to be, and are just fine as they are.

          The real question being debated here is not if chimps are humans, but if they are deserving of a given set of rights/protections. It is fine to say that we should respect life forms, but it is a matter of degrees and based upon qualities. If I'm hungry should I be able to kill a human and eat them? What about a chimp? What about a cow? What about a banana? What about yogurt? What quality of these life forms makes them deserving of legal protection from my hunger? What if I need an organ transplant to survive? What animal would not be acceptable to kill to preserve my own life even if it is not threatening me?

          Personally, I consider all life to be similar in certain ways. I consider animals to be more akin to humans (or vice versus) than most people seem to assume. Animals have emotions and thoughts along the same lines as humans, but to differing degrees. To some degree their similarity to humans is considered as a criteria, but I think that fails if you look at it from a scientific perspective. Intelligence is a somewhat valid criteria, but I don't see it as the only one necessary for something to be deserving of "rights." Usually in my personal life I consider rights to be related directly to responsibility. Anything that takes responsibility, has the right to manage that responsibility, but must also deal with the consequences. When rights conflict, it is usually the responsibility portion of the equation that clarifies the situation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why does this need to be a black and white scenario? In some ways, chimps are more human like than some retarded humans, and yet they are subject to torture and other inhumane treatment. In other ways, chimps can never be a part of human society in that they lack our more developed cognition and social skills. Simply put, they are not mice, and they are not humans, so you can't treat them as one or the other.
  • hooh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bazorg (911295) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:37AM (#18600945) Homepage
    hoo! hurr! grr! huuuh! hoooh! hoo!
  • by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:38AM (#18600949) Homepage
    Not long ago certain former "leader of the free world" took away its citizens' habeas-corpus provision. Every MINUTE a person (in the up-until-now traditional sense) dies of malnutrition or trivially treatable diseases. I'm all for the ethical treatment of animals but we do have more pressing problems.
    • Former?
    • by Godji (957148)
      Well, we will always have more pressing problems. If let this be a reason (excuse) not to solve the less pressing ones, then as a society we will stop achieving anything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mephist01 (122565)
      Seriously, it's not either or. I might as well say that I'm not going to work for women's rights or minority rights until all the problems of the straight white man are solved. There is nothing about animal suffering that is great for humanity. I think that granting rights to certain primates is problematic, but not in the same way you do. I think it's a problem to give animals rights based on their likeness to us on non-relevant criteria. The only thing that matters is their sentience. See http://gar [blogspot.com]
  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:39AM (#18600963) Journal
    If they get Human Rights, can I get Animal Rights, like flinging my poo at my boss when he annoys me?
    • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bogjobber (880402) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:31AM (#18601375)

      You're joking, but you hit on a salient point. Whether chimps should have more rights than something stupid like a cow is an important question, just like whether a cow should have more rights than a cockroach. I think it's pretty ridiculous to expect the same rights to be given a chimp as you give to a human, though. Rights come with responsibilities as well. You certainly wouldn't expect a chimp to be able to understand the law and understand the consequences of things such as the aforementioned flinging poo at people. If a chimp can sue me for abusing it, then I damn sure better be able to sue the chimp for abusing me. Could you imagine someone at the zoo suing a monkey for throwing shit at them? To anyone paying attention, that's pretty god damn ridiculous.

      Besides, what the hell is the point in chimps even having rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion? Obviously they don't need them, so it's pretty ridiculous to claim that they should have them. If they don't even have the ability to exercise natural rights, they probably don't have them.

      • by Pentagram (40862) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:04AM (#18601937) Homepage
        Rights come with responsibilities as well.

        Not in our society. Certain rights are only granted if certain responsibilities are upheld, but even our most despised criminals are granted the right to food, shelter, freedom from torture and so on.

        I would grant at least these minimum rights to any animal that can pass the mirror test.
      • Re:Awesome! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:09PM (#18606791)

        If a chimp can sue me for abusing it, then I damn sure better be able to sue the chimp for abusing me.


        Even among humans, its possible for someone (i.e., a child) to be protected by laws that provide causes of action that are not symmetric with the causes of action available against the protected person.

        You certainly wouldn't expect a chimp to be able to understand the law and understand the consequences of things such as the aforementioned flinging poo at people.


        Nor would I expect a human infant too understand the law and the consequences of its actions. Nevertheless, I would expect such an infant to be entitled to protection against, e.g., arbitrary detention by the government and be entitled to the full benefit of protections like habeas corpus.

        Besides, what the hell is the point in chimps even having rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion?


        If they had no capacity to exercise the right (a questionable supposition, chimps can learn rudimentary human sign language and express preferences with it, which is all that is necessary to exercise free expression) there would be no effect at all (and thus no harm) in granting it to them. If they have the capacity, there is clearly a point in protecting them for punishment for pure exercise of that capacity.
  • Oh No! (Score:2, Funny)

    by KernelMuck (914823)
    To all who believe in spanking your monkey, be forewarned.
  • By that standard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mumblestheclown (569987) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:43AM (#18600989)
    By that standard, shouldn't people, say, in vegitative states or with extreme cases of metal retardation be legally not human, and therefore eligible for the hot dog machine?

    On Penn & Teller's Bullshiat, a show with many many many subtle flaws despite it's many many many good parts, they once had a little bit in the PeTA piece about how if animals have rights, then therefore they should have responsibilities. When I first heard this I thought at first that this was just a bit of flat humor, but then it occurred to me that this was actually a very powerful argument. Fine - if the primate deserves equal protection under law, then he should get equal treatment under law as far as paying taxes, sending his offspring to school, not assaulting people by climbing on them, being hygenic, etc.

  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:46AM (#18601021)
    Generally Chimpanzees are considered on par with the intellegence of a five year old child. Can you imagine having this discusion about the rights of a five year old child? Would anyone ever consider medical experiments reasonable on a five year old child? Yes they aren't human but genetically they are close. What if we do meet a more intellegent race? Is it okay to experiment on them and detain them simply because they aren't human? Certain rights should be expanded to include both less intellegent species as well as more intelllegent species. Whales, Dolphins and Great Apes should arguably have some basic rights as sentient beings.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mr_matticus (928346)
      The better question is, "if we encounter a superior race, are all the jackasses here willing to accept being killed for sport and used in experiments without legal protection?"

      After all, if lesser creatures don't deserve any kind of respect, then logically we wouldn't if there were clearly superior beings. We'd be pretty annoyed if we were drugged or killed for fighting back, I'd imagine.
  • by vivaoporto (1064484) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @04:47AM (#18601029)
    Brazilian judicial system is similar to the U.S. one, each judge has the final say over his jurisdiction. Despite of that, Brazil is ruled by civil law, not common law, so the decision of that judge is completely irrelevant for jurisprudence. There are a lot of judicial activism there too, so it is not rare (but it still weird) that a judge bias can affect the decision, on this case, an animal right defensor judge accepting an animal as a litigant, back in the seventies, a judge acquitted a man that was on trial for murder accepting a witness statement from the dead friend which he had communicated telepathically with a medium [guardian.co.uk].

    Despite of those aberrations, judicial system in Brazil is not that ridiculous. It is massively slow and a lot of times unjust, but we are not near to give animals (or companies, for all that matters) full rights of a natural person.
  • Discrete errors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denoir (960304) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:00AM (#18601127)
    One common mistake is to view different species as their own independent and crisply defined sets. This is at odds with the reality of evolution, which is a continuous process. There are many examples of species where the intermediate stages are alive [wikipedia.org]. This isn't the case for humans and chimps, but it illustrates the problem of dividing up species.

    If we go by similarity to humans - we are apes. African apes, to be specific. That means that chimps are closer relatives to us than say orangutans are to chimps.

    The intermediate stages from the common ancestor to the human and chimp branches are extinct, but that's just a coincidence, something that could have been the other way around. Looking at it that way the ethical questions become more difficult. When you can't define clear groups, the in-group/out-group ethics becomes difficult to rationalize.

    Rather than an ethics based on questionable categories we need one based on functions - especially cognitive capabilities relating to suffering. When it comes to chimpanzees an the other great apes, the answer is very clear - we do need to give them rights. They may not understand it themselves, but neither do human children and we offer them rights and protection. Apes are a trivial problem - it becomes more difficult when you distance yourself further. What about cats, mice or even insects or one-celled organisms?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cowscows (103644)
      Children do not understand their rights, but they certainly have the potential to, and we should assume that they will understand and take advantage of those rights in the future. There's not a meaningful comparison between human children and apes in regards to this topic.
  • Yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:13AM (#18601237) Journal
    I do not believe chimps should have human rights, but that we should improve the rights of all animals. It seems us humans see animals as... well animals. We often forget these are things with feelings and emotions just like we do. We should never think of killing another human because "that's wrong" but at the same time we rarely think twice about killing hundreds of animals for the sake of cheap wood or because some stupid reason like "I hate bugs". Basicly we're that asshole kid who runs around hitting everyone and it's about time we faced up to this, we scream and shout about global warming while at the same time completely missing the little picture where we're wiping out entire species of animals because we can't use basic birth control and have an over populated planet in some areas.

    I want to point out right now I'am not some nutter who runs around bombing animal testing labs. I accept some things must be done such as conservation and culling of over populations in the animal world. This while not pleasent if something we need to do to keep a balance in wild life, I would not wish to stop it nor would I ever attempt to.
    • Yes, we should be kinder to animals, in general. If we kill them, we should at least have a reason, if not a good one. That is, if you go hunting deer for sport, at least make venison out of them. I have no problem with killing cows for beef, but certainly we should think twice about killing an animal, or an entire ecosystem, just to get some more wood or make room for another supermall.

      On the other hand, bugs don't even have brains, as we know them. I'll have to check my sources, but I strongly doubt they
  • woa, what about (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:14AM (#18601247)
    my dogs? They damn sure recognize themselves in a mirror, they fully understand what a mirror is and play games in the mirror. The make will sit in front of the mirror and look me directly in the eye via the reflection, he likes doing that. And he knows it's a reflection because as I move my hand up behind his head, he can see my hand in the mirror and he'll tip his head back to meet my hand. And he coordinates it perfectly. He really, fully understand what a reflection is and how they work and he enjoys playing mirror games.

    They also play hide and seek and are smart enough to anticipate what the other will do and make strategic counter moves to "cut em off at the pass" when playing in the yard.
    And they enjoy being petted and tickled, that's obvious to anyone with a brain. And they even have favorite words. Like my puppy, when I call her by her regular name she responds and comes, sits, stays, etc..
    But when I call her "wiggly dog" she explodes into a fit of tail wagging like you've never seen, she wags her entire body, like a snake wiggling on the ground. You can tell she takes extreme pleasure in being called "wiggly dog".. The male, his favorite thing is when I call him "big dog", he gets all excited about that just like the puppy.

    My dogs are intelligent. I demand they get equal rights too damn it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)
      The classic experiment is to put a red dot on the animal's forehead, then show him the mirror.

      If he acts like, "hey, there's this dog in the mirror with a red dot" he's reacting to what looks like another dog. If he acts like "shit, I've got a red dot on my forehead" then you have a self aware dog.

      The problem with dogs is finding something they won't be able to smell on themselves. Unawareness is critical to the experiment.
  • by FredDC (1048502) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:24AM (#18601329)
    From the discussions going on I get the feeling that alot of people don't know what the human rights are, so here they are (taken from wikipedia [wikipedia.org]):

    - security rights that protect people against crimes such as murder, massacre, torture and rape

    - liberty rights that protect freedoms in areas such as belief and religion, association, assembling and movement

    - political rights that protect the liberty to participate in politics by expressing themselves, protesting, participating in a republic

    -due process rights that protect against abuses of the legal system such as imprisonment without trial, secret trials and excessive punishments

    - equality rights that guarantee equal citizenship, equality before the law and nondiscrimination

    - welfare rights (also known as economic rights) that require the provision of education and protections against severe poverty and starvation

    - group rights that provide protection for groups against ethnic genocide and for the ownership by countries of their national territories and resources

    Please explain to me how these apply to animals? What we need is animal rights, a set of rules which apply to animals specifically.
  • Yes, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ward.deb (757075) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:34AM (#18601387)
    Isn't this a little strange? For having rights one should be able to lay a claim to this right. As far as I know, a chimp can't.
    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @06:12AM (#18601627)
      Or as in the case of incapacitated humans, have someone lay claim for you. I think there's sufficient grounds, but I'd find it strange if these cases get any legal traction. The human bias is very strong in law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tomfrh (719891)
      For having rights one should be able to lay a claim to this right

      You would therefore argue that a baby has no rights?
  • by damienl451 (841528) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:38AM (#18601421)
    There are quite a few faulty assumptions regarding human rights and whether animals should have them:

    first, there seems to be a confusion between what it means to be a human being as opposed to animal (as a general rule), and what makes humans valuable. It is not because humans can laugh, think, etc. that they are valuable. Else, as soon as you are sedated, you'd stop being human because you wouldn't have those characteristics anymore. Humans are intrinsically valuable (their rights come from natural law), and an animal can never be biologically human.

    Second, it is always quite dangerous to start defining what you 'need' to be a human being. Think about slavery, most genocides,etc. What happened is that some people decided to use arbitrarily defined criteria to strip people from their human status. Who says the criteria animal rights activists use are correct?

    Third, why do they believe that chimps should have the same rights as humans. It is as logical to say that human beings should have the same rights chimps enjoy presently (i.e. none). The very idea of human rights is based on the premise that there is something intrinsically valuable in human beings, regardless of their mental capacities or physical abilities.
  • by nuggz (69912) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @06:12AM (#18601623) Homepage
    Interesting arguement.
    This is a smart chimp so it should have human rights.
    This suggests human rights are dependent on intelligence.

    Logically they should also argue stupid people should NOT have human rights. Unborn children, those in persistent vegetative states are also arguably not worthy of human rights either.
    Perhaps even babies aren't smart enough to have human rights either.

    Also bestiality couldn't be illegal as marriage is a human right. Or perhaps certain humans aren't deserving of all human rights. Different rights for certain types of people. Maybe some groups shouldn't get to vote, and other groups should be slaves, or simply executed to protect the rest of us?

    Human rights are for the human species. Animal rights are for other animals. What's really wrong with that?
    • by dsanfte (443781) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:29AM (#18602107) Journal

      Logically they should also argue stupid people should NOT have human rights. Unborn children, those in persistent vegetative states are also arguably not worthy of human rights either.

      Perhaps even babies aren't smart enough to have human rights either.


      Your past point is interesting, because if we were to take a step outside our species for a second, by a standard of rational thought an intelligence, there's no reason to value a human baby over that of a chimp unless we bet on its presumed, but unknown, future potential.

      It's quite possible that a proper definition of what a human being "is" would disqualify fetuses and some babies. I don't think fear of that should necessarily stop us from defining it anyway. We can find other reasons to keep our kids around, like, say, because we love them.
  • Murder? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:15AM (#18602573) Journal
    Will the chimps be forced to live by human law?
    If a chimp kills another animal, will it be arrested for animal cruelty?
    If a chimp kills another chimp, will it be murder? How about if a chimp kills a human?
    How about rape, assault, etc?

    For one to have human rights, one has to have human responsiblities.
  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maimun (631984) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:49AM (#18603035)
    The very fact that the issue is being discussed seriously is shocking. I dunno if the article is 01.April joke or not, but apparently many people hold the opinion that an animal species can have human-like rights. Which is ridiculous, perplexing, and sad at the same time; a tell-tale sign of decadence.

    As many pointed out, rights go together with responsibilities. Can you hold a chimp responsible for a crime, then? Apparently not. FYI, occasionally chimps kill other apes (bonobos) and eat them. Do you seriously propose that chimps are tried and sent to jail for premeditated murder/bonobo-slaughter/cannibalism-of-some-sort ? Trying to extend what is now human rights to not only apes but all animals (I can see efforts in that direction) leads automatically to paradoxes: animals kill each other all the time, that's the way life is. Believing in so called "animal right to life" implies (in case the person believing in it is consistent and smart, which is seldom the case) automatically that all the predators and omnivores are criminals. Furthermore, many (most?) carnivores cannot possibly survive without eating other animals; so, if the spider kills a fly, it is a criminal, but if you deny the spider its prey it (the spider) will die, so indirectly you become a criminal.

    Some common sense is needed to stop the non-sense...

  • absolutely not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @09:19AM (#18603521) Homepage Journal
    a chimpanzee should not have HUMAN rights

    YES, a chimpanzee has rights as a living thing and deserves some legal protections. but not, in any way, HUMAN rights

    i passed an animal rights activist on the street the other day, and she had a t-shirt that read "animals are people too"

    no. never. no way. no how

    but her t-shirt does just about sums up the essential disconnect between reality and delusion going on here:

    YES, animals deserve some protections from suffering. yes, cruel treatment against ANY life form is incompatible with any sense of morality. yes, yes, yes

    but NO: the rights of animals NEVER rise to that of your fellow human beings

    that's the line in the sand

    the rights if animals are not zero. but the rights of animals also do not rise to the rights of your fellow human beings

    that's the only common sense reality on the subject matter
  • What about humans? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:21AM (#18604557) Homepage Journal

    Okay, this might sound like a troll, but hear me out. I'm not interested in getting into a discussion about abortion, but it makes a pertinent example, regardless of whether you are opposed to it or not.

    I have a hard time believing that chimps would be granted any rights in today's society, especially considering that roughly half of the population argues in favor of a woman's "right" to have her unborn child killed. If the rights of an unborn human child are so small that they may be outweighed by the convenience of the mother, I fail to see how a chimp's right to life would ever take precedence over the possible value of the medical research obtained.

    Abortion doesn't cure disease - in fact, it is, more or less, last-resort birth control. If you can't convince society to respect human life, I doubt you'll be able to convince them that medical research should be halted so that chimps can be spared. After all, at least the medical research has the potential of providing cures for disease someday.

    I'm not trying to troll here - you can believe what you want with respect to the merits of abortion. That's not the issue. The issue is that in order to convince people to give animals the same rights as humans, you are going to have to offer a compelling case for doing so. People (sadly) aren't interested in the moral arguments, and the arguments against giving animals rights are strong:

    • Be prepared to be called an enemy of science. Much scientific and medical research depends on using animal subjects.
    • Be prepared to be called uncompassionate toward humans - after all, without animal subjects, you delay the cures for things like cancer.
    • Be prepared to be called a corporate shill or anti-environmentalist. Because many chemicals are discovered toxic by testing on animals first, the lack of testing would allow corporations even greater freedom to dump environmentally damaging chemicals into the environment.
    • Be prepared to be accused of attempting to force your private morality on the public.
    • Lastly, why would we grant rights to animals when we are taking them away from humans? Things like the elimination of habeas corpus, government sponsored torture, indefinite detention, mandatory abortion, and summary execution, etc... are all on the horizon and are far more pressing issues than that of animal rights.

    It isn't an easy subject to take on. Granted, we shouldn't ever intentionally inflict pain on living things, but then, how would we eat? There are vitamins and minerals our bodies need which are only present in living things. So without a binding set of moral principles, the debate is going to remain centered around the pragmatic aspects, and I doubt this will result in any action being taken.

    After all, the Democrats successfully convinced Americans that it is wrong to "imposing your private view of morality on the general public". Given this is considered evil, how could one convince the general public that your particular moral imperative applies to the public at large? Isn't religion supposed to be a private thing now? (I suppose we could get involved in the related discussion about private versus public morality, and how law reflects the morality of the public at large, for better or for worse.)

    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:58AM (#18605289)

      I have a hard time believing that chimps would be granted any rights in today's society, especially considering that roughly half of the population argues in favor of a woman's "right" to have her unborn child killed. If the rights of an unborn human child are so small that they may be outweighed by the convenience of the mother, I fail to see how a chimp's right to life would ever take precedence over the possible value of the medical research obtained.

      For me, a chimp has a lot more qualities that make it deserving of protection than an embryo. A chimp has a brain and thoughts and feelings and experiences and interpersonal relations. An embryo has more qualities in common with wood than it does with humans. It is brainless, thoughtless, chunk of living cells. If I were to decide which is more deserving of rights, I'd definitely choose a chimp. For that matter, cows are more deserving of protection of their life than embryos. At least cows think and have emotions and care if you kill them.

      If you can't convince society to respect human life, I doubt you'll be able to convince them that medical research should be halted so that chimps can be spared.

      What do you mean by "convince?" I respect life, human or otherwise, that I find deserving of that respect, based upon the qualities I value and my own ethics. Some human life is worthy of protection and some is not. If a person is born without a brain or their brain dies, I have no problem with them being killed or used in experiments, so long as that is not inflicting emotional pain on still living relatives or the like. I can be convinced to support limited rights for chimps if it is demonstrated that they take responsibility for those rights and exercise those rights in a way that is acceptable to society. I don't see anyone ever convincing me that a mindless bundle of cells can take responsibility for anything. If you have a logical reason why you think embryos should have rights, lets hear it. But if by "convince" you mean you want me to change my mind because you say so without a logical reason or because of an illogical reason based on emotion or your irrational and unsupported beliefs, well that isn't convincing.

      People (sadly) aren't interested in the moral arguments, and the arguments against giving animals rights are strong:

      People shouldn't be interested in moral arguments, just ethical ones. Morality is subjective and has no place in a reasoned discussion.

      Lastly, why would we grant rights to animals when we are taking them away from humans?

      Interestingly, we're discussing law. Theoretically, all law should be about mitigating conflicting rights between individuals. Otherwise, it is simply a matter of personal choice and is not the place of government to interfere. For example, the role of government is to decide if my right to throw rocks supersedes or is superseded by your right to own and protect your car's windshield. It is not the place of the government to decide if my throwing of rock on my own property and which does not affect anyone else is "moral" or not.

      Already the rights of animals have been recognized and the law mitigates the conflict of those rights. Laws against animal cruelty, for example, have held that an animal's right not to suffer horribly is more important than a person's right to torture said animal or own said animal. The proposed law is simply a new stratification granting more rights to a certain type of animal based upon the qualities of that animal.

      Granted, we shouldn't ever intentionally inflict pain on living things, but then, how would we eat?

      I believe the law has mostly ruled that we don't have the right to unnecessarily inflict pain on animals. We can kill them painlessly or relatively painlessly. Not that all pain is "wrong" simply that we need to be aware of it and not intentionally create more of it.

      There are vitami

  • Slippery slope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:20PM (#18606965) Homepage Journal
    The next Democratic Party platform... cross-species marriage. If you don't agree, you're a bigot. You heard it here first!

Life. Don't talk to me about life. - Marvin the Paranoid Anroid

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