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Will Chimp Life Get Human Rights?

[AlterNet - opinion]

Hiasl, a 26-year old Austrian-based chimpanzee, is petitioning the courts for human status, and let me be the first to extend him a warm welcome to our species.

My animal rights activism has never gone beyond the cage-free eggs' stage; it's the human possibilities raised by Hiasl's case that caught my attention. If a chimpanzee can be declared a person, then there's nothing in the way of a person becoming an ape -- and I'm not just talking about a retroactive status applied to ex-husbands. In fact, I predict a surge in trans-specied people, who will eagerly go over to the side of the chimps.

The transition need not involve costly, time-consuming, surgical arm extensions and whole-body Rogaine treatments, since we are practically chimpanzees already. We share 99 percent of our genome with them, making it possible for chimps to accept human blood transfusions and kidney donations. Despite their vocal limitations, they communicate easily with each other and can learn human languages. They use tools and live in groups that display behavioral variations attributable to what anthropologists recognize as culture. And we may be a lot closer biologically than Darwin ever imagined.
...
Of course, what makes humans especially obnoxious is our tendency to believe in our absolute superiority over all creatures. We alone, of all species, have come up with religions and philosophies that declare us uniquely deserving of global hegemony. Yet one by one, our "unique" human traits have turned out to be shared: Chimpanzees have culture; dolphins make art (in the form of bubble patterns); female vampire bats share food with their friends; male baboons will die to defend their troop; rats have recently demonstrated a capability for reflection that resembles consciousness. We are animals, and they are us.

But just because you want, for whatever reason, to attain the status of a chimp, don't assume that you'll make the cut. Just as we don't know how the Austrian court will rule in Hiasl's case, we have no reason to believe that the chimps will have us.

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full story: http://www.alternet.org/rights/51729/

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