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In last week's eNewsletter, we reported that the Spanish region of Catalonia was moving toward banning bullfights by protecting bulls under existing animal cruelty laws. While this is certainly an encouraging development, Spain has been pondering an even more forward-thinking and intriguing possibility: granting great apes legal rights of personhood to protect them from exploitation and abuse.
Francisco Garrido, a bioethicist and Green MP representing Seville, recently introduced a resolution in the Spanish parliament's environment committee to extend the basic rights of life, freedom and protection from torture to chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas. The committee is expected to pass the resolution, as it enjoys widespread support among both the public and many government officials, and Garrido is hopeful that a full-fledged Great Apes Law will be introduced following the summer recess. If that is approved, Spain will become the first country in the world to grant rights to non-human species.
This could have many beneficial implications not only for great apes in Spain but also around the world. A Great Ape Law would redefine the legal status and standing of certain simian species by eradicating human or institutional "ownership" of apes. They would instead be placed under the "moral guardianship" of the state, preventing their exploitation for profit. With passage of the new law, most apes now in Spanish zoos and circuses would henceforth live in state-sponsored sanctuaries. In addition, harming or mistreating a great ape would be punishable as a criminal offense (barring cases of self-defense and euthanasia). The use of great apes in medical research would also come to an end in Spain, as it has in Britain and New Zealand. (....)