LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Monday, 29 December 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as orangutan gets new rights

Should apes have rights?
er.... have you not seen the films?

A good day for orangutans, a bad day for circuses with animals or a step closer to The Planet of the Apes?

An Argentinian court has ruled that an orangutan called Sandra be recognised as a “non-human person” and therefore entitled to her freedom from a Buenos Aires Zoo. She will be transferred to a sanctuary that will afford her a degree more liberty.

Sandra’s case was argued by Agentina’s Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) and represents a breakthrough for the animal rights lobby in its battle to free animals from human ownership.

The court decides...
Earlier in December, the New York Appeals Court rejected an attempt by the Nonhuman Rights Project to free a chimpanzee called Tommy from private ownership. The judges concluded that Tommy could not be recognised as a "legal person," as a chimp "cannot bear any legal duties".

The judges ruled: “Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.''

In 2011, the animal rights group Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a lawsuit against marine park operator SeaWorld, alleging five wild-captured orca whales were treated like slaves. A San Diego court dismissed the case.

But will Sandra’s case set a new precedent that could affect all animals in captivity?

According to Paul Buompadre, a lawyer for AFADA, "This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories."

The problem with the argument, of course, is that it assumes animals in captivity would be happier if freed. But since the animals can't speak for themselves, are animal rights advocates any better placed to speak on their behalf than the people who work with captive animals on a daily basis?

The zoo's head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, commented, "When you don't know the biology of a species, to unjustifiably claim it suffers abuse, is stressed or depressed, is to make one of man's most common mistakes, which is to humanise animal behaviour."

But what I want to know is where will it all end?

"You finally gave them rights!"

For my thoughts on the issue of animal rights versus welfare, click here.

And to read the 100 year history of attempts to ban animals from the circus, click here.

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