Tuesday, October 01, 2002

CONSIDERING CHIMPANZEES

Recognizing a near relation
Chimps get a retirement home and support for rights
By David Arnold, Globe Staff, 10/1/2002

CAMBRIDGE - They feel love and loss. They can paint, communicate in sign language, and fight. And they share 98.7 percent of human DNA.

Yet chimpanzees have fewer rights than a brain-dead human. Thousands of them are used in medical research, kept in zoos, or work in circuses, with no law protecting them from being euthanized when their work life is over.

But in a sign of how attitudes toward nonhuman primates are changing, the federal government announced plans yesterday for an unprecedented retirement home for 800 chimps formerly used in research. On the same day, eminent researchers and lawyers held a first-ever meeting at Harvard Law School on how to give chimps more legal rights, including status that might get them out of the labs and animal acts altogether.

''Legal rights grow out of wrongs,'' Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard, told several hundred people in Ames Courtroom in Austin Hall yesteday. ''And there is no question that this animal has suffered pervasive wrongs over many centuries.''...