Great Apes get Legal Rights in Spain!

Legal rights for all great apes – does your country have them?

In Europe and Australia, great apes are inching toward obtaining the same legal rights as humans.

In Spain the parliament’s environmental committee voted to approve resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, designed by scientists and philosophers who say that humans’ closest biological relatives also deserve rights. The resolution, adopted with cross party support, calls on the Government to promote the Great Apes Project internationally and ensure the protection of apes from “abuse, torture and death.” Resolutions adopted on June 25, 2008 gave great apes, grant legal rights to great apes, covering chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orang­utans. The resolution, expected to be enacted into law by June 2009, gives great apes the right to life and protects them from harmful research practices and exploitation for profit, such as use in films, commercials, and circuses and freedom from arbitrary captivity and protection from torture.

Spain is the first nation to extend human rights to mankind’s closest genetic relatives. It bans harmful experiments on apes and make keeping them for circuses, television commercials or filming illegal under Spain’s penal code.

A court case from Austria could go further, if it declares a chimp a person so the animal could have a legal guardian and funds for upkeep. The European Court of Human Rights is considering an appeal in the case of Matthew Hiasl Pan, a 28-year-old chimp from Austria. If Matthew should win, the case would set a legal precedent across Europe to treat apes with some of the same rights as people, says his lawyer, Eberhart Theuer of Vienna.

The world’s first legislation that would grant legal rights to all great apes passed the parliament of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous province of Spain, on February 28, 2007. About a year after which parliamentary committee set forth resolutions urging Spain to grant the primates the rights to life and liberty.

chimp rights

Other Europian nations attempted to create legislation to help the great apes as well. In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals beings and not things. Although in 1999, their constitution was completely revised and replaced. A decade later, Germany guaranteed rights to animals in a 2002 amendment to its constitution, becoming the first European Union member to do so.

Keeping apes in zoos will remain legal, but their conditions will have to improve. ” The philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, saying that hominids such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans should enjoy the right to life and freedom and not to be mistreated.

  • Humans and chimps share 99 per cent of their active genetic material
  • 7,300 Sumatran orang-utans remain in the wild
  • The mountain gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo have dwindled to 700, and the Cross River gorilla is believed to number only 250

The UN predicts that some species of great ape could be extinct within a generation without our intervention and protection.


The World Atlas of Great Apes; Times archives

Activists pursue basic legal rights for great apes – Jeffrey Stinson USATODAY 7/15/2008.

Apes get legal rights in Spain, to surprise of bullfight critics – Thomas Catan

Times ONLINE June 27, 2008.

The animals have the right to life and protection from harmful research practices.
– Apoorva Mandavilli  Discovery Magazine December 10, 2008.


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