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Spain: Basic Rights granted for Great Apes

"If you look at the course of western history you'll see that we're slowly granting basic rights to everyone. A long time ago only kings had rights. Then rights were extended to property-owning white men. Then all men. Then wymyn [women]. Then children. Then the mentally retarded. Now we're agonizing over the extension of basic rights to animals. We need to finally accept that all sentient creatures are deserving of basic rights." -- Moby (1)
Great Ape Project:

"This is an important step towards future governmental support for great apes worldwide. Under most government structures, legal rights are the only way to insure that non-human great apes are free from torture, unnecessary death and capture. Simple "animal protection" laws are not enough. We congratulate the hard work and efforts of GAP Spain and its members as well at the political parties that introduced and supported the decision: The Front United Left and Catlunya Party. This is a tremendous accomplishment."

Discover Magazine:

It's clearly a historic occasion, albeit a weird one: The Spanish parliament has announced its support for granting legal rights to gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. The parliament's environmental committee has approved resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, an international campaign that aims to provide our closest genetic relatives with the right to life, the freedom of liberty and protection from torture. The Spanish resolutions have majority support, and are expected to soon become law.

"This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights," Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, told The Times. "It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades."... Mr. Pozas said that the vote would set a precedent, establishing legal rights for animals that could be extended to other species. "We are seeking to break the species barrier we are just the point of the spear," he said. (2)

Some animal rights campaigners noted the irony of this breakthrough occurring in Spain, which still permits bullfighting. But for the most part, they celebrated the move as a happy development that will improve conditions for primates within the country. The resolutions require Spain to update its laws within the year to ban using apes in circuses, TV commercials, and films, and will also mandate improved conditions at the nation's zoos. Finally, the new laws will forbid experiments on great apes. "We have no knowledge of great apes being used in experiments in Spain, but there is currently no law preventing that from happening," Pozas said. (3)

Great Britain and New Zealand already forbid experimentation on great apes, and several weeks ago a Swiss court halted two experiments on the smaller rhesus monkeys, stating that society would not see enough benefit from the experiments to justify the burden on the animals. (4) But the Spanish resolutions mark the first time a national government has proposed granting legal rights to non-humans. The development raises a host of questions: Could this lead to great apes refugees seeking sanctuary in Madrid? And what does it mean when a chimpanzee in Spain has more rights than a human being in an Iraqi prison? Stay tuned as society gropes for the answers.

More info:  http://www.greatapeproject.org

(1)  http://moby.org/info/ar-sa1.html
(2)  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4220884.ece
(3)  http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSL256586320080625
(4)  http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080611/full/453833a.html