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