Spain proposes legislation granting "rights" to man's closest relative.
SPAIN is not the first country that springs to mind as a land of animal lovers - it is better known for bullfighting and the large number of stray cats and dogs on its streets.
But that image is set for a change. Today, the Spanish parliament will consider a resolution granting higher primates the same rights to life and freedom as humans.
The resolution recognising the rights of apes, chimpanzees and orang-utans has been put forward by Francisco Garrido, a bioethicist and member of the Green Party. It has the support of the socialist PSOE party and seems certain to become law.
The resolution adheres to the ideals of the Great Ape Project, which recognises our closest genetic relatives as part of a "community of equals". If voted through, it will make Spain the first national legislature to give such rights to non-humans.
Under Spanish law, animals, including higher primates, are deemed to be "owned". Under Mr Garrido's resolution, they would come under moral guardianship, meaning apes could effectively be made "wards of the state" if they were under threat or being mistreated.
Any new laws protecting apes in Spain would put pressure on other European countries to follow suit.
The Catholic Church initially opposed the legislation, with Fernando Sebastian, the Archbishop of Pamplona, saying it was ludicrous to grant apes rights not enjoyed by unborn children - a reference to Spanish abortion laws.
However, he has since said his remarks had been taken out of context and that he now supported the resolution.
Yesterday, Greenpeace Spain added its backing to the proposed new law. "
The critics of this initiative are repeating the arguments of 150 years ago against the abolitionist movement that sought an end to slavery or when the suffragette movement wanted the vote for women," a spokesman, Miguel Angel Soto, said.
The Great Ape Project was founded in the United States in 1993 by philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri. They said apes were so close to humans they deserved rights to life, freedom and not to be tortured. "When a loved one dies, they grieve for a long time. They can solve complex puzzles that stump most two-year-old humans," Mr Singer said.
The Spanish parliament's move today will set a precedent for greater legal protection for other animals, including elephants, whales and dolphins, according to Paul Waldau, the director of the Centre for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "It isn't easy for us to see how far that expansion will go, but it's very clear we need to expand beyond humans," he said.
Note the name Peter Singer. Remember him? He is a Princeton professor who advocates allowing parents 21 days (a trial period if you will) to kill their newborns. Especially useful if the child is handicapped or in some other way fails to meet his parents' expectations.
What next? Interspecies marriage? Employment rights for animals? Voting rights? I noticed also that the Church now supports this measure? What an outrage.