"Human" Rights?

A court in Austria is hearing a case which will decide if Hiasl, a chimpanzee, is entitled to be protected in the same way as a human child would. The animal sanctuary where Haisl lives is about to close, and rather than see him shuttled off to a zoo or lab, Paula Stibbe is applying to become his legal guardian. Unfortunately, the whole business of appointing a guardian only applies to cases where a human, who requires legal representation, is incapable of making informed decisions on their own.

So the case, allegedly, boils down to the question of whether Hiasl is human or not.

People are getting way bent out of shape over this. Comments like "what next? He gets to vote?" are commonplace where this is being discussed.

But this case isn't about whether Hiasl is human. It's not about granting human rights to chimps. It's about whether this one chimp deserves protection because the animal sanctuary he lives at is going bankrupt and the new owners have indicated they don't care.

Also, Hiasl has received donations from benefactors but, legally, cannot spend them himself, nor have them spent on his behalf unless a guardian is appointed by the court.

Of course, the fundies are getting out of their prams on this. They were mad when science said apes were intelligent, for The LORD Your God only gave humans intelligence. They were mad when science said we were related to apes, for The LORD Your God did make us in His image. They were mad when science said that, not only were we related to chimps, but that we share over 99% of the same DNA, for The LORD Your God said that DNA.. well.. to be truthful, The LORD Your God didn't say anything about DNA because when The Bible was written, nobody knew what it was. But you can bet that, had they known about it, The LORD Your God would have bloody well made sure that ours was 100% unique.

Quite what the fundies think The LORD Your God said about an animal being granted, even in the most limited and restricted way, rights more often reserved for humans is anyone's guess. But they are upset. And they are trying to find a way to claim it is wrong.

Look. In the specific, limited context of this one, single case involving this one, single ape, and in no way condoning any weird, baseless fantasies about apes voting, standing for office, being given driving licences and passports, or extending human rights to dogs, cats, rats, spiders, stick insects, bananas or bacteria, I support Hiasl's side in this. If this is what it takes to protect this one, single animal, then sure, why not?

Human rights are an artificial construct. In the wild, rights are nonexistent. In human society, the only rights you have - proclamations of universal human rights notwithstanding - are those either granted by the society in which you live or those that you can physically claim and defend by yourself. Drop a human into a pride of hungry lions and his right to life will mean precisely nothing. Rights are granted by society. So why can't certain rights for animals be granted in the same way? Is it really going to hurt you?

The situation in Spain, where one party is going to put forth a law that would, if passed, recognise apes as having basic human rights. If the law passes, and those who voted for it retain their jobs at the next election (thus signifying that the Spanish electorate approves of the law), what's it got to do with anyone outside Spain?

But - just a thought - leave the fantasising to the moviemakers and authors. This isn't going to bring about The Planet Of The Apes.

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