Spain is about to take the world into uncharted legal territory. Later this month, a resolution is going before parliament which, if passed as expected, will give a set of rights to chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. These great apes will then be regarded in Spanish law as "legal persons."
It will be of historic significance, the first time that any civilization has recognized the special status of another species and the need to protect it not only from extinction but also from individual abuse. Spain will be obliged to introduce new laws protecting the great apes, putting pressure on other European countries to follow suit, and will undertake to organize a forum of rich nations to fund the protection of the great apes in their natural habitat.
The resolution is based on the work of the Great Ape Project, which was founded in 1993 by philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri. It urges the government in Spain to take the necessary measures in international forums and organizations to protect great apes from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction.
The central idea of the project is that the great apes share more than just DNA with humans. There is an enormous amount of data collected by scientists, including Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey and Birute Galdikas, that the great apes are intelligent beings with strong emotions that often resemble our own.
Singer and Cavalieri have presented a radical vision that has on occasion been widely misinterpreted. This is not a call for human rights to be accorded to the great apes, they say, and it will not result in the release of captive great apes into the wild. It is rather a recognition of their undeniable similarity to humans and a rejection of the notion that these animals can be considered property, with no more legal significance than an item of furniture.
"There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species," Singer said.
Spain is on the surface an unlikely country to be taking such a radical step towards recognizing the rights of animals -- after all, bull fighting is still considered a sport. Some philosophers believe that a deadly attack on humans might have been one of the motivations behind its move to recognize the rights of apes.
The Madrid bombings on March 11, 2004, which killed 192 people and injured more than 2,000, they say, forced a radical rethink within society.
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
The US, Japan and Australia conducted trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea on Monday, the US Seventh Fleet announced yesterday. It was their fifth joint operations this year in the fleet’s area of operations, it said in a statement. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain joined the JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta. The Arunta’s commanding officer, Commander Troy Duggan, said that Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the US. “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,”
ONGOING PROBE: A former Military Intelligence Bureau colonel, major general and another colonel, as well as five other people, have been questioned by prosecutors The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered that a retired colonel from the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) calling himself Taiwan’s “first special agent” be detained and held incommunicado as part of an ongoing investigation into espionage allegations targeting at least three former bureau officials. The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office was seeking to detain former MIB colonel Chang Chao-jan (張超然) over his alleged involvement in introducing retired agents to Chinese national security authorities and passing confidential documents to China. Chang’s actions, if proven, would contravene the National Security Act (國家安全法), which carries a prison term of three to 10 years, and the National Intelligence
Seabed waste off the west coast is 1.5 times higher than the global average, with the mouth of the Tamsui River (淡水河) nearly 90 times dirtier, the environmental consultancy IndigoWaters (澄洋環境顧問) said yesterday. The firm in September last year began collaborating with local oceanographers on Taiwan’s first survey of seabed waste off the west coast, collecting 6,000 samples from near the mouths of eight rivers and conducting 215 inspections. Of the samples, 83.3 percent were found to contain trash, the group said. Based on the survey, every square kilometer of seabed had about 121,074 pieces of trash weighing 102kg, IndigoWaters chief executive Yen