Human Rights for Great Apes

Great apes (bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans) distinguish themselves from (many) other animals through special cognitive and emotional capacities. For example, they are ascribed a certain form of self-awareness and a rudimentary capacity for language use.

On the basis of these capacities biomedical experiments on anthropoid apes appear to be more ethically questionable than experiments on other animal species. The "Great Ape Project" initiated by Peter Singer (see above) and Paola Cavalieri therefore calls for human rights to be extended to great apes. As bearers of human rights they could not be held in captivity or killed. Nor would the continued use of anthropoid apes in medical experiments be legitimate.

As things currently stand, experiments on great apes are already outlawed in a number of countries (for example New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden). In Germany no further experiments have been conducted on bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas or orang-utans since 1991, although there is not as yet any legal prohibition to this effect.

Cavaliere, Paola / Singer, Peter (ed.) (1993): The great ape project: equality beyond humanity. London: Fourth Estate publishing.

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