Thursday, January 02, 2003

GREAT APE RIGHTS NEAR

Apes in line for legal rights
Our nearest relative: Should apes have rights to decent treatment?
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
Campaigners who want four great ape species to be given legal rights believe they may be on the verge of victory.

The four species are chimpanzees, bonobos (a pygmy chimp), orangutans and gorillas.

A number of groups have been campaigning under the banner of the Great Ape Project (GAP) for all four to be given what are sometimes called human rights.

GAP says it may soon achieve a breakthrough, if a new animal welfare bill in New Zealand is drafted to include a clause to do just that.

The law would then make the great apes the first non-human species to enjoy individual, fundamental rights.

Enforceable in law, they would include the right to life, the right not to suffer cruel or degrading treatment, and the right not to take part in most experiments.

The bill could soon become law and could set a precedent for other countries.

GAP argues partly from the genetic similarities between the great apes and human beings - chimps and humans share 98.5% of their DNA.

But it also says all four species have some "indicators of humanhood" - intelligence, deep emotions, some linguistic ability, and self-awareness....