Friday, May 30, 2008

Animal Rights Activists Want Chimp Declared a Person

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Sudeep Simkhada said...

It seems that Spain’s parliamentary committee recently OK’d the resolution mentioned in the piece you refer to. This means that the parliament will now seriously weigh a legal measure aimed at curbing ape-rights violation, among others (I don’t know the details; it may be that the resolution only calls for ape-rights). Here is the link to a recent piece by William Saletan for Slate assessing the implications:

I have been following Saletan’s Human Nature column on Slate for a while; generally speaking, I have found his pieces to be astute and illuminating. However, this once, I can’t seem to figure out what exactly his arguments against Peter Singer’s views are, if there are any. The title and the byline suggest that Saletan doesn’t like all this animal-rights blather. But he also makes a case for (sort of) how the Great Ape Project is actually advocating animal inequality. So is he merely cynical of GAP’s methods or is he suggesting that any talk about animal-rights is bound to end up in marked inequality? Beats me.

In any case, my (rather uninformed, perhaps brutish, and superficial) view is that killing animals for survival is justifiable. I will probably need to qualify what I mean by “for survival” here but let me avoid it by putting the onus on my readers – isn’t it pretty straightforward what I mean? In fact, I don’t think anyone even needs to justify such a killing, either to oneself or to anyone else. However, the issue here is much more complicated, not to mention much more controversial. As far as I understand (and in crude terms), there seems to be two main reasons, albeit related ones, why people want animal rights: (a) ethical/philosophical – catchphrases are: “we are animals too”, “animals too feel pain, emotions…”, “some animals are intelligent”, “we are too egocentric”, “it’s their world too”, “we don’t have the right” etc. which put try to put forward arguments, and (b) compassionate – catchphrases are: “we should be kind”, “we are intelligent and wise enough to…”, “this is a wonderful world full of wonderful creatures” etc etc. generally upbeat views that just smugly assert goodly things. Perhaps the tone I use may be enough to guess my views on the compassionate approach.

On the other hand, I do think there should be legal measures to check unwarranted and reckless torture of animals, if only because I have an aversion for sickos who take pleasure in making sentient beings suffer. But the thing is, this again will entail creating a hierarchy among animals – some animals will have to be more equal than others. Inevitably, those animals closest to Homo sapiens in ‘intelligence’ and DNA make-up probably will make it to the top, while such lowly creatures as cockroaches will end up being squashed.

I give up. Anthropomorphism is unavoidable, I think, so I let it be. I am not much of an ethicist to make an informed decision on this. My views are muddled and contradictory, to say the least. I probably won’t be a vegan ever, though. Of that I am sure. I will kill an ape if I have to for my survival, provided that it doesn’t do me in first. I will probably continue going to circuses and zoos and marvel at the damn beasts. What the hell.