Mar 28, 2007

testing the limits of speciesism

My brother asks:
Two perhaps unrelated questions, though, for the naturalists who read this blog: is the difference between animals and humans a difference of kind, or a difference of degree? What, if any, ramifications does this have for ethics?
I don't have a good answer for the first question, but the ramifications of its second option--a difference of degree--are currently being tested by an Austrian court.
Paula Stibbe, a British woman, has applied to the court to be named Hiasl's legal guardian, saying it deserves the same rights as a human. So the chimp – which shares 96% of its DNA with humans – is having its personhood debated.

Primatologists and legal experts have spoken up in support of Hiasl having human legal status. Volker Sommer, a primatologist at London University, says chimps are not just one of the homo genus - he believes they should be considered as the same species as contemporary humans.

The judge will decide, with potential repercussions for Austria's zoos, and chimp-based research.
More later, if I get the time.

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