Monday, December 16, 2013

I wanna be like you ou ou.

You see a lot in the press these days on the subject of "rights", interest groups up and down the land put forward their claims to various "rights"; from Christians wearing crosses to work through to Islamists demanding that alcohol be removed from sale in our high streets, people demanding the right to equal treatment and people demanding the right to be free to deny equal treatment. Sometimes these rights are supposedly handed down from supernatural forces on high through middle-men and sometimes they are just common sense measures to protect a minority from a majority, one thing is for sure and that is Human beings are the purveyors of what we call "rights", we invent, package, barter, sell and donate them to each other and have done for centuries.

So far so good, but what about the "rights" of other species of animals, how about our closest relatives the great apes? Back in 1772 in England there was a famous legal case that established the right of habeas corpus in our legal system; this means that someone being held captive may seek relief by having a judge force his captors to explain why he is being held. In the 1772 case the person being held was an escaped American slave and the ruling concluded that the slave was not a piece of property but a person and as such could not be held captive for no reason. However, this basic "right", one that we've all taken for granted in this country over the 250 odd years since this ruling is not extended to animal species other than humans, we still treat our closest cousins in the animal kingdom like plantation slaves, worse in fact. So do apes have a right not to be imprisoned? Some people think they do and campaign on behalf of chimpanzees and other apes for basic "human" rights, for example habeas corpus; as with all questions on rights, its up to us.

Personally I think we should be guided by science on this, as we know, species boundaries are not fixed over time and since we've been aware of genetics it has become obvious that the differences between species are much smaller than previously imagined, as the photo above shows even our most primitive reactions (to things like cold stethoscopes) are identical.

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