Spain muses over possibility of 'human' rights for apes

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Following a recent report that predicted the use of apes in animal
testing would be unavoidable in the future, Spain could become the
first country worldwide to give some primate species fundamental
rights that are granted to human beings.

This unusual development, calls for the government "to take any necessary measures in international forums and organisations for the protection of great apes from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death, and extinction.

The resolution would essentially prohibit chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and other great apes from being used in animal experimentation, a move already adopted by some countries.

The United Kingdom is not the only country to have restricted medical experimentation on great apes. In 1999, New Zealand passed an animal welfare act stating that research, testing or teaching involving the use of a great ape requires government approval.

Under proposals put forward by members of Spain's ruling Socialist alliance, the concept of "ownership" for great apes would be replaced by placing them under the "moral guardianship" of the state.

This is a similar situation include cases like children in care, the severely handicapped and those in comas.

Francisco Garrido, a Green MP for Seville who sits with the Socialists and who is also a bioethicist, aims to gain the Government's approval, which would mark the first a national legislature has recognised the special status of great apes and the need to protect them, not only from extinction, but also from individual abuse.

The move has been endorsed by members of the Great Ape Project (GAP), a Seattle-based pressure group which campaigns for the creation of a "community of equals" in which humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans would all enjoy three fundamental rights: the right to life, to freedom, and to protection from torture.

"The proposal has aroused considerable debate in Spain. Some are concerned that it will interfere with medical research,"​ said Peter Singer, co-founder of the >GAP.

"But the only European biomedical research that has used great apes recently is the Biomedical Primate Research Center at Rijswijk, in the Netherlands. In 2002, a review by the Dutch Royal Academy of Science found that the chimpanzee colony there was not serving any vital research purposes. The Dutch government subsequently banned biomedical research on chimpanzees,"​ he added.

Related topics: Preclinical Research

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