Thursday 19 September 2019

Human rights for chimpanzees is just monkey business

Tommy is a chimp at the heart of a bizarre, but potentially far-reaching, lawsuit
Tommy is a chimp at the heart of a bizarre, but potentially far-reaching, lawsuit
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Retired circus worker Tommy is in a bad way. Put out to pasture by his former employers when he became too old, he now lives in a trailer park in New York where, apparently, he spends his days aimlessly watching cartoons on a cheap television.

Like many retired people, he is bored and depressed. And, like many bored and depressed American retirees, he dreams of escaping his trailer park tedium and moving to Florida, the most popular state in America for retired people.

It's a perfectly reasonable aspiration and one that's shared by plenty of Irish people as well.

Who wouldn't want to spend their days enjoying the sunshine like that?

The thing is, Tommy wasn't a clown or an acrobat during his days in the circus. He's a chimpanzee. And now Tommy is a chimp at the heart of a bizarre, but potentially far-reaching, lawsuit.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, who are filing the complaint on behalf of Tommy and three other chimps held in similar conditions, argue that his "detention in a small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed" is illegal and they want him moved to a primate sanctuary in the Sunshine State.

I'm sure we all wish Tommy the best in his court case and there is no justifiable or moral argument for keeping a creature as smart as a chimp in such brutal conditions. But the Nonhuman Rights Project are taking their suit a step further and are saying that "chimpanzees possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they're found in human beings... there's no reason why they should not be protected when they're found in chimpanzees".

So, in other words, non-human primates would have the same rights as people.

That might seem, on first glance, a nice idea. It would be a nice, woolly sentiment, along the lines of a UN statement, asserting that we are all Gaia's children, or some such wibble.

But any actual legal change opens the door for all manner of cranks and fundamentalists to legally impose their own ideas about how animals should be treated.

Few causes attract so many well-intentioned people who are so hopelessly deluded. In fact, of all the various activist groups out there, the ones who say they are concerned about animal welfare certainly seem the most appealing. But even when you leave aside the violent extremists who fire bomb the homes of people involved in animal testing, you're still left with a lot of people who are very, very odd.

When you consider that mainstream groups such as PETA feel comfortable comparing battery farming to the Holocaust, or modern 'philosophers' who argue that the life of a human is no more valuable than the life of an animal, you know you're dealing with people who have waved farewell to common sense.

Non-human primates are the first group of animals to be used in this particular experiment. But many activists would ultimately like to see all animals conferred with the same rights as humans.

Beef farmers would be as bad as camp commandants, sports fishermen who catch and release would be busted for piscene hate crimes and if you own a dog?

Well, if you own a dog then you're little better than a slave owner who revels in canine servitude. You probably even gave it a name you liked, just like the plantation owners did.

The above sentiments may seem extreme, but they are all sentiments you will find after a quick trawl through the battier end of the animal rights movement.

Frankly, it wouldn't be long before some of these people wanted animals on juries and given the right to vote, because to deny them that is a breach of their rights. And how long before the word 'chimp' is deemed derogatory and must be replaced with 'primate of chimpanzee origin'?

Ah yes, there could be fun ahead...

Irish Independent

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