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What are YOUR Thoughts on Rights for Great Apes?

As you probably know, "Spain’s parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans."

Yes, the basis is their genetic similarity to us, and it should be enough that they are subjects of their own lives and are sentient.

But I want a ban on Greyhound racing. Sure, I ultimately want Greyhounds and all other sentient nonhumans to have the right to not be the used by humans. And I work toward that in my daily vegan outreach. Abolishing Greyhound racing, however, does eliminate a use of a sentient nonhuman and should also dramatically decrease the breeding of Greyhounds, as they currently have two uses: showing and racing. Eliminate one use, and the incentive to breed for that use is eliminated as well.

Now back to great apes. Under the Spanish law, "Keeping apes for circuses, television commercials or filming will also be forbidden and breaking the new laws will become an offence under Spain’s penal code." I think that’s great. What I find fascinating is that people against rights for great apes call this a dangerous precedent. Meanwhile, I’m sure many people who consider themselves abolitionists would also call this a dangerous precedent because the reason for the granting of the rights would be speciesist.

Back to Greyhound racing. If the ban is broadened to the tracks in Massachusetts (and it might be in November), that ban would largely be achieved because of the cruelty argument. Though there are definitely people dealing with this issue who think we have no right to race the dogs, there is a considerable suffering contingent. But as I have said: I don’t care why the industry fails and the dogs are no longer raced–I just want to see an end to Greyhound racing.

Is that wrong of me?

If we are to see an end to the use of great apes in Spain, even though it’s not for the reason we’d like to see, if indeed great apes will no longer be used, shouldn’t we be pleased about that part of the outcome? After all, we don’t know for certain whether it will be easier or more difficult to get rights for anyone else thereafter.

Will banning Greyhound racing make it more difficult or easier to ban horse racing? Will it have any impact on our efforts to ban other uses of sentient nonhumans? And if it might, do we not support a ban because we think it might make another ban in the future more difficult to achieve? Do we sacrifice the animals who are close to being free of us because we think others down the road might never be free of us?

What do you think?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. " I don't care why the industry fails and the dogs are no longer raced–I just want to see an end to Greyhound racing. Is that wrong of me?"

    No, I think you're right. The reasons don't matter as much as the behavior. One could even argue that all we are is behavior. If humans act as though they don't treat animals as commodities, what does it matter if humans think that animals are commodities? We could get into a deep philosophical question about motives, the human brain, the effect of habit upon thought and belief, pragmatism, behaviorism, and so on, but maybe a better question is: Do animals care what we think? Or do they care more about what we do?

    June 30, 2008
  2. Angus #

    I agree that giving the other great apes rights based on their similarities to humans is less than ideal. But to oppose the move on that score is to be way too intellectual, in my opinion. At Secondhand Smoke, Wesley Smith, that tireless exponent of the crank doctrine of "human exceptionalism", is having a fit about the Spanish legislation because he correctly recognizes that giving rights to apes is "the point of the spear" (quoting the Spanish director of the Great Ape Project) to break through the species barrier. My only question is, will the Spanish legislation actually give apes the full rights demanded by the Great Ape Project? If the answer is yes, then it will be a historic day.

    I see that Smith is now claiming that if meat is murder, so is being vegan. You just can't keep a good crank down.

    June 30, 2008
  3. Dan #

    I’m certainly not opposed to the ban on using our evolutionary cousins, nor do I see it as a “dangerous precedent” from an abolitionist standpoint (although I think all such legal bans are very tenuous in a non-vegan society). As an abolitionist, however, calling for specific bans without also calling for vegan living and the end of the exploitation of all sentient nonhumans is NOT what I do. What I do is engage in vegan education. Only when one has committed to vegan living can one possibly overcome the speciesism that causes gross inconsistencies in use and treatment.

    To summarize: first, there must be a politically powerful base of vegans in a society as a sound foundation to support *permanent* legal bans. Without that societal vegan foundation, legal changes are extremely fickle (e.g. Chicago foie gras ban overturn was extremely predictable) and speciesism is never eroded. It always comes back to the basics.

    June 30, 2008
  4. Roger #

    I think Mr. Smith of Secondhand Smokes has a point. He says: "This is the way of the world: No matter what diet you choose to follow from steak 7 days a week to vegan tofu specials, animals died that you might eat. If meat is murder, so is vegan. That's the way it is and everything to the contrary is just noise."

    I feel this is a conversation vegans should have – and incorporate into our claims-making.


    July 1, 2008
  5. Roger,
    One diet considers animals food. The other doesn't. That is, the entire concept of "meat" is a concept of murder.
    Murder, by definition, must include intent to kill.
    It's the same way that attacking a human and killing that person deliberately is murder whereas when it's by accident it's negligent homicide or some such, but intent is necessary for murder. That is the distinction.
    That is why meat is murder. That is why we say "meat" is murder not "eating dead animals" is murder. We all accidentally eat dead animals here and there. If you drive a motorcycle, run, or even if you hike you swallow bugs. That's not the issue. The issue is about DELIBERATELY killing another sentient being.

    July 1, 2008

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