Let Great Apes be Apes
Advocating simian rights an attack on human principles
Wesley J. Smith
June 18, 2006
"I am an ape," Pedro Pozas, secretary-general of the Spanish Great Ape
Project, declared recently.
No, Pozas wasn't commenting on his appearance. Rather, he was boosting
Spanish legislation that would grant human-type rights to apes.
Animals can't comprehend the concept of rights, so why grant them such
entitlements? Supporters of the legislation point to our close genetic
relationship with chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans as
justification. And it
is true: The DNA sequence in our respective genomes varies only a
But this small variance is responsible for vast differences. Indeed,
tens of millions of measurable biological distinctions between humans
distant primate cousins, which is why we have far higher brain
walk on two legs and exhibit the many unique attributes that separate
all other life on the planet.
But these facts won't matter to most supporters of the Spanish
whose ultimate goal is the implementation of a broad animal liberation
that would eventually elevate all mammals to moral equality with
Still, you have to start somewhere, and that's where the Great Ape
-- the inspiration for the Spanish legislation -- comes in. Co-founded
Singer, the godfather of the animal liberation movement, the project
advocates that apes be granted full membership with humans in the
equals," thereby granting them the "right to life," the "protection of
liberty" and the "prohibition of torture."
All animal abuse is clearly wrong and should be prevented through
enforcement of strict welfare laws. This is a special concern when
and orangutans are mistreated, given the poignant empathy we feel
these magnificent animals. But by seeking to grant apes rights, rather
generally promoting their improved care, proponents of the project
great human harm.
Take, as just one example, the purported right against torture. This
reasonable until one reads the project's definition of torture as "the
deliberate infliction of severe pain on a member of the community of
wantonly or for an alleged benefit to others." Clearly, the primary aim
isn't to stop beatings or punish neglect, but when combined with the
right to personal liberty, is clearly intended to prevent apes from
used in medical research.
A 2005 commentary written by primate researchers John VendeBerg and
Zola in the science journal Nature demonstrates how foolish such a
prohibition would be. Chimpanzees' genomic similarity to humans' -- the
purported rationale -- is precisely the attribute that makes these
"invaluable" for use in medical experiments.
One exciting example involves the development of revolutionary
substances known as monoclonal antibodies that offer tremendous
treat a wide range of human maladies, including cancer, multiple
and "virtually any disease caused by a viral infection."
Chimpanzees are essential to this research because unlike other
their immune systems do not attack these genetically engineered
Consequently, the experimental substance remains in the chimps' blood
extended periods, permitting researchers to fully evaluate its safety
before commencing human trials. Chimpanzees are also necessary in some
of drug testing.
But perhaps most compellingly, they are the only other animal capable
being infected with the human HIV-1 virus, which for reasons not fully
understood, does not usually make them ill. Thus, VendeBerg and Zola
chimpanzees are "important for testing vaccines aimed at preventing
reducing the virus load in infected individuals."
The loss of chimps as crucial medical research aids would be sufficient
cause to reject the project. But there is an even more important, if
reason for refusing to grant rights to apes. The fundamental purpose of
project is to undermine our belief in human exceptionalism -- the
human life has unique moral value simply because it is human. Animal
liberationists abhor human exceptionalism as bigotry against animals.
persuading us to include apes in the so-called community of equals,
hope to slowly erode society's belief in the unique importance of human
These misguided efforts overlook a crucial point: The way we act is
substantially on the nature of beings we perceive ourselves to be. In
regard, our self-concept as the world's most important species is
beneficial, because it is both the stimulus for promoting universal
as well as the grounding for our distinctly human duty to treat animals
Spain's Pozas may think of himself as being merely an ape, but the rest
us should reject his absurd moral reductionism. If we truly want to
better world, the answer is not to give apes unwarranted rights, but
to embrace the unique importance and solemn responsibilities that are
essential aspects of living fully human lives.
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a
consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is researching a
on the animal rights movement.
A medical profession founded on callousness to the pain of the other
animals may eventually destroy its own sensibility to the pain of humans.
Brigid Brophy (Animals, Men and Morals)
Because of their highly sensitive nervous systems and outstanding physical
endurance, cats are the preferred animals for particularly painful and
long-lasting neurological experiments... devised by plainly unbalanced
- Hans Ruesch (Naked Empress
Dr. Robert J. White who for over 20 years has been transplanting heads on
monkeys is also an advisor to Pope John Paul II on medical ethics! Dr.
White, a devout Catholic with 10 children, says animals have no rights. He
admits the once-healthy monkeys are paralyzed after the transplants and
soon die! He hopes to begin head transplants on terminally ill humans!!!
William Flatay (Article in the Scottish Sunday Newspaper)
During the last 80+ years, scientists experimenting on trillions of
animals, came up with 900 ways of causing cancer in a mouse...BUT NO CURE
- J.F. Brailsford, MD
We have cured mice of cancer for decades--and it simply didn't work in
- (Dr. Richard Klausner of the National Institute of Cancer)
This is one of many ways vivisectors try to get their promised cures to
humans' illnesses AND money for them: "Urination: find out why an adult
male dog lifts his leg to urinate while a female squats."
- Quoted by the
National Anti-Vivisection Society
The American public has been trained to accept anything that sails under
the flag of science.
- Hans Ruesch, Medical Historian
Vivisection is anti-science and anti-health, and is leading us down a path
of waste and decay! I encourage people to fight the dangerous dead-end of
- Murray J. Cohen, M.D.
It took me a couple of years reading the vivisectors' own literature to
convince me that animal experiments have no scientific relevance to human
- Chris DeRose (Last Chance for Animals: "In Your Face")
Your good article about causing serious questions when medical results on
men studies are applied to women, opened my eyes: If men and women are so
different, how in the world can scientists reach any valid conclusions from
the myriad projects and experiments... on different species??? It makes
all the animal testing/experimentation pretty futile!
- Mrs. Milton Bernhart (Reader Forum-AARP Bulletin)
I refer to the tyranny of science. The old horrors are being brought back.
Though we no longer torture in the name of God or in the name of the State,
we torture in the name of science!
- John Cowper Powys (Moral Evolution)
We have not lost faith - we have transferred it from God to the medical
- George Bernard Shaw
In the U.S. today the only cause of polio is the oral vaccine routinely
administered to infants in society's drive...to rid the nation of this very
- Bill Curry, L.A. Times
Science that fails to embrace all living beings is far more dangerous than
- Steve Simmons (Aids Activist)
Warning! Laboratories prefer your pet for torturous research; they say they
are easier to handle.
- Faith (Granny) Senior (Pet Gazette)
It is difficult to entertain a warm feeling for a "medical man" who straps
dogs to a table, cuts their vocal cords, and spends an interesting day or
week slowly vivisecting or dismembering them.
- Clare Booth Luce
When evaluated on the basis of real usefulness to humanity, "scientific
research" is a fraud, whether intentional or not.
- William A. Cave, Late
There are hundreds of paths to scientific knowledge. The cruel ones can
teach us only what we ought NOT to know!
- George Bernard Shaw
We have, in a single afternoon, been able to replicate in humans what took
20 years to do in nonhuman primates. [Referring to breakthroughs in brain
imaging techniques. The New York Times].
- Dr. Walter Schneider, Psychologist
The laboratory animal lives in hell and dies in hell by the millions, every
year, time without end!
Science is nothing more than an imaginary knowledge of the absolute truth.
At Animal Research Institute we are trying to breed animals without legs
and chickens without feathers.
- R.S. Gowe, Director, Animal Research
If a guinea pig may be sacrificed for the sake of the very little that can
be learnt from it, shall not a man be sacrificed for the sake of the great
deal that can be learnt from him?"
- George Bernard Shaw (The Doctor's
The recorded tortures of human beings [by their own species!] are seldom of
such long duration as those inflicted upon lab animals. Most of lab animals
suffer from repeated experiments for months even for years!