In earlier times, man was seen as a special creature - the image of God and the lord of creation. Yet with the Spanish parliament debating the rights of great apes as "persons", the traditional view of man and animal could be about to definitively change.

"I am an ape" says Pedro Pozas, secretary-general in Spain of the international Great Ape Project, which wants the United Nations to grant gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutangs and bonobos something comparable to human rights.

Humans and great apes are part of the same hominid family, champions of ape rights say, stressing that the behaviour of apes resembles that of humans more than had previously been recognized.

Spain's governing Socialist Party is promoting an initiative to recognize great apes as different from other animals, to protect their habitat and to prohibit their use in circuses. The measures would also ban scientific experiments with  great apes, something that has already been practically abolished in Europe. Spain would thus become the first European country to adopt measures such as those proposed by the decade-old Great Ape Project, which seeks three basic rights for apes: the rights to life, to liberty and to not being tortured. "The only other country to have adopted comparable measures is New Zealand", Pozas told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA in a telephone interview.

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