The dust bunnies under my bed don’t have human rights, either

The Blogfather’s response to the question of whether or not chimps have human rights is pithy and accurate (“No. Next Question?“), but pithy has never been my strong suit.

No, chimps do not have human rights because they are not members of the human race.  Even the tiniest human, mere moments after its conception, is a member of the race that built civilisation, harnessed electricity, runs a court system, creates art, and builds skyscrapers.  Whether or not that particular human being will end up building skyscrapers or being cared for in a home for invalids is beside the point: we all have equal worth and dignity.

No chimpanzee will ever be part of the human race, nor will it ever (at least in our lifetimes) create a civilisation like ours.  It will not develop a body of governing law, implement a court system, manage roads and bridges, erect a skyscraper, study science, or paint the Mona Lisa. To be a bit sarcastic: if chimpanzees want “human rights,” then they should seek said rights through their own court system, with their own advocates, and using their own laws. That a chimpanzee lacks redress within its own system is an indication that it is not entitled to such rights.

It is absurd to grant human rights to non-humans (especially when human beings are so frequently denied their own rights, like the right to life until one is safely born); the correct set of rights is animal rights.  Chimpanzees may be given the rights that we afford a house pet: the right to food, care, and non-abuse if in our control and custody, but they are not entitled to the full panoply of human rights.


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Filed under Bioethics

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