Friday, July 18, 2008

Only Humans are Human

Ethics @ Work: Animal rights: Are they good for people?
Jul. 17, 2008

Last week I wrote about Leona Helmsley's will, which left large sums for the care of animals. I claimed that it is technically as well as ethically impossible to actually bequeath the money directly to the animals. Technically, because animals don't have any legal standing; ethically because this technicality reflects the ethical reality that animals are unable to communicate their desires and therefore any human judgment regarding their welfare is necessarily conjectural.

This week we will learn that my point of view is not universally accepted, at least among people.

A prolonged legal battle is raging in Austria to get a 26-year-old chimpanzee named Pan declared a person, so that he may obtain a court-appointed guardian and hold property in his own name. An Austrian judge ruled earlier this year that apes are not humans, but a group of humans is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights on Pan's behalf.

And just a few weeks ago a parliamentary committee in Spain supported a bill that would give rights to great apes, making it illegal to deprive them of life and liberty. Thus, it would be illegal to use them in medical experiments or in films or circuses in Spain.

Technically, these provisions don't give animals rights; they only impose duties on human beings as is done all over the world. Animal-abuse statutes in many countries (though not in Spain) outlaw bullfighting, but that doesn't mean that bulls have rights. However, the rhetoric of the Spanish bill is a rhetoric of rights, and its supporters are vocally promoting an agenda of giving rights to great apes, and ultimately to other species. Read More

Lately, I have been selecting articles that show how some people and organizations have chosen to advocate for making animals equal to people, such as Spain’s decision to grant rights to apes. The author of this article sums up very well what I have been saying. Human rights should not be granted to animals. Doing so will begin negating what it means to be a human being.

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