Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chimps: Not Human, But Are They People?

Here's a shout-out to "Wired" for a great feature yesterday on the debate over whether to extend the status of "personhood" to chimpanzees.

As Brandon Keim writes: "It's a controversial position. If being a person requires being human, then chimpanzees, our closest primate relative, are still only 98 percent complete. But if personhood is defined more broadly, chimpanzees may well qualify. They have self-awareness, feelings and high-level cognitive powers. Hardly a month seems to pass without researchers finding evidence of behavior thought to belong solely to humans." Click for the rest of the feature.

Keim also referenced Hiasl, the West-African-born-then-captured-but-rescued-from-research chimp. Hiasl, who was taken from Sierra Leone in 1982, faced a bleak outlook when, at age 26, his shelter ran out of money and he was going to be sent to pharmaceutical research. Hiasl's plight made global headlines last year when an activist tried to persuade the Austrian courts to declare him a "person" so she could be appointed his guardian. When her bid failed, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. As near as I can figure out, it is still pending. (If I'm wrong, please let me know.)

No comments: