Sunday, May 06, 2007
Humanizing a chimpanzee
Early this year, a group of animal rights activists in Austria took up an unusual case to the court to get a 26-year-old male chimpanzee legally declared a "person."
A chimpanzee named Hiasl was kidnapped from Sierra Leone in the jungle and illegally brought to Austria in 1982 as an infant after his mother was killed by poachers.
He was sold to a vivisection lab, forced to live alone in a cage, and experimented on for many years before finally being released to a sanctuary.
However, the sanctuary has recently declared bankruptcy and Hiasl now faces the possibility of being sold back into the vivisection industry.
Hiasl's supporters argue that he needs the status to of a legal entity who can receive donations and get a guardian to look out for his interests.
They argue that the chimpanzee has the right to life, the right to not be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions.
According to reports on this groundbreaking trial, the judge has handed down a verdict rejecting the chimp's right to a legal guardian and its status of person hood.
The judge stated her concern that if she was to appoint a legal guardian for Hiasl, she feared that this would set a precedent, putting humans with legal guardians on the same level as animals.
Chimps share 99.4 percent of their DNA with humans but they are not homo sapiens. That does not mean they don't have rights. They do have rights that need to be protected.
Human beings can protect the rights of other species and provide stewardship where necessary even without going through a court procedure. Man is an ingenious creature and must stand up for the rights of others.