Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
(1771-1834), filled in as part-time judges and lawyers.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
(By Scott J. Kreppein and Stephanie Lifrieri-Kreppein)
Human law makers will dictate the future of chimpanzees and other great apes. Approximately five to seven million years ago, humans and chimpanzees branched away from one another as separate species. Between then and now, human and chimp genomes have evolved a 1% to 5% difference. Humans have one less chromosome than chimpanzees, caused by a genetic sequence that is split between two chromosomes in apes, but has merged into a single chromosome in humans. Humans and chimps still share similar complex emotions and social structures, but are distinguished by numerous physical and cognitive characteristics. The difference is well illustrated by the handful of chimps have been taught to use sign language, but are only able to communicate with the clarity and understanding of a young child.
Throughout the twentieth century, chimps and other primates were used to test and develop pharmaceuticals and for other scientific experiments. The polio vaccine, for example, was developed by allowing human viruses to pass through monkey organs, thereby decreasing the virus' potency. The less potent (“attenuated”) viruses were then used asg vaccines, batches of which were grown by infecting more monkeys, then slaughtering them and checking to make sure that the live virus had not regained virulence. More humane methods for vaccine production have since been developed; not out of respect for the chimps, but more-so because of concerns for human safety. As an unforeseen consequence of using monkeys to develop, test, and produce vaccines, simian viruses (causing various cancers, and possibly HIV) were unknowingly passed into human populations.
Within the last twenty-five years governments around the world have begun limiting the use of great apes in scientific experiments, and animal activists are arguing that apes and cetaceans (wales and dolphins) should be considered non-human persons with certain fundamental rights. One Chimp, Haizl, through an animal rights organization, has petitioned the European Union Court of Human Rights to recognize a basic level of rights for Chimpanzees and other great apes; and in 2008 Spain passed a law declaring chimpanzees and other great apes to be legal people.
Humanity must decide the future of the great apes. We are destroying their natural habitat, and have caused them to become endangered in the wild. If we do nothing, they will likely go extinct. The great apes will, of course, not go extinct -- humanity will not allow it -- but what should we do with them?
Zoos and animal sanctuaries currently focus on preserving endangered species, and use selective breeding to prevent inbreeding and maximize genetic diversity. Just as humanity did with dogs, horses, cows, and pigs, however, selective breeding can also be used to favor or discourage particular traits. Thus, as wild chimp populations dwindle, humanity will take increasing control over the evolutionary path of chimps and other great apes.
Chimps are not pets, but people want them to be. Recently, a chimp attack in Connecticut has made this very clear. The chimp in question had starred in commercials when it was young; and, as a 200 lb adult, the chimp wore clothes, drank wine, and slept in bed with its custodian. Then, in February, the chimp viciously attacked a visitor to the home, causing severe injuries.
To the Chimpanzee, we are Prometheus. Eventually, chimps could be bred into pets; or they could be used for manual labor; or they could become intelligent and autonomous members of our society. Some would argue that we are ethically obligated to preserve chimpanzees in their natural habitat and leave them alone, but that is unlikely to happen due to the economic demand for chimpanzees in our society. Moreover, some might argue that we have an ethical obligation, since we are aware of chimpanzees' intellectual potential, to aid in their development. Our decisions and legislation, whatever they will be, will significantly effect the future of the chimpanzee and similar great apes.
This may seem like a fringe issue, but the recent Connecticut chimp attack has spurred law makers into action. The policies set down today will have a far-reaching impact on the future of chimpanzees and other great apes. Are chimps and other great apes property to be owned, or are they persons over whom humans serve as custodial guardians? What rights do chimps have, and what are the responsibilities of their guardians? These are questions that need to be answered.
Law Is Cool Blog, "Chimps Decry Discrimination."
Wired Science, "Should Chimpanzees Be Given Human Rights?," by Brandon Keim (May 11, 2007)
BBC News Online, "US activists demand lawyers for chimps," (2/26/02)
L.A. Times, Primatologist Jane Goodall speaks out about chimpanzee attack, 2/26/09,
Hartford Courant / Associated Press, "Chimp owner faces likely lawsuit, experts say," 2/20/09
Nation Geographic News, "Chimps Belong On the Human Branch of the Family Tree," (May 20, 2003)
- NY Daily News, "Treating chimps as family proves humans are the real chumps," by Kevin Kusinitz (February 20, 2009).
- Fox News, "Chimpanzee Attack Revives Calls for Federal Primate Law," by Joshua Rhett Miller (February 18, 2009)
- The Stamford Advocate, "DEP let couple keep chimp without required permit," by Brian Lockhart (February 17, 2009)
- Newsday, "Slain chimp's owner now says it wasn't on Xanax," by John Christoffersen (February 18, 2009).
- The Chicago Examiner, "Hollywood Chimps Gone Wild: A Cautionary Tale," by Harmon Leon (February 19, 2009)
Peter Singer, The Guardian UK, Rights for Chimps, 7/29/99