Great Apes Granted 'Human Rights' by Spanish Parliament

Gorilla Relaxing
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photo by youngrobv via flickr

So, the subject of this post is a little outside the boundaries of the normal subjects I cover here at Treehugger, but the implications of this news are great.

Rights for Humans' Genetically-Closest Relatives
Via :: The Guardian

Great apes should have the right to life and freedom, according to a resolution passed in the Spanish parliament, in what could become landmark legislation to enshrine human rights for chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos.

The environmental committee in the Spanish parliament has approved resolutions urging the country to comply with the Great Apes Project, founded in 1993, which argues that "non-human hominids" should enjoy the right to life, freedom and not to be tortured.

While I’m not at all sure that the principle of giving ‘human rights’ to apes is likely to be spreading around the world like wildfire—the concept of human rights for humans is subject to rather (cough) wide interpretations and is far from universal—if it did it would force a number of land use changes around the world.

Biofuels and Logging Practices Would Requires Changes
Palm oil plantations would be constrained in the way they operate, if they could exists as ‘plantations’ at all, as they currently threaten orangutan populations.

Kenya would likely have to stop its plans to use to grow sugarcane for biofuels in wetlands.

Logging in Africa and Southeast Asia, which is causing massive loss of habitat for apes, would have to be halted or the perpetrators be accused of something like genocide.

A Far From Universal Idea, Currently
So I’m getting a little ahead of myself, no doubt. And I’m not entirely sure that enforcing rights legislation for great apes is in the slightest bit practical without a corresponding and widespread shift in humanity’s relationship with other animals. Nonetheless, if this idea—one which does have a solid scientific basis given the genetic similarities between apes and humans—gained acceptance it would have far greater positive consequences for the environment than the founders of the Great Ape Project, Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri realize.

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