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by
Rick Moran

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December 7, 2013 - 4:11 pm
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The idea that a chimp or whale (or elephant) should be granted the rights of “personhood” lampoons itself. Animals in no way should be recognized as anything except what they are: dumb beasts with few legal rights compared to humans.

But in the last 20 years, science has made epic leaps of knowledge in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the brain. And the surprising discoveries that have been made challenge our notions of what defines a “person” and whether a select group of animals might qualify under that definition.

We’ve known for decades that chimpanzees share 98.7% of their DNA with humans. More recently, we’ve made the startling discovery that chimps and other great apes are “self-aware” — that they have a sense of individualism and an awareness of their existence in time and space.

But does this mean we should grant animals who demonstrate varying degrees of consciousness and self-awareness binding legal rights? This is more than idle speculative chatter, in that many of these animals are used in science and commerce for experimentation and study. If they are self-aware, does that mean they have free will? And if they are determined to have free will, what right do we have to force them into captivity and use them as we see fit?

These are ethical and scientific questions that we’ve only begun to address. And this weekend at Yale, a conference is underway to wrestle with the question of “What is a person?”

A conference on “Personhood Beyond the Human” will be held at Yale University, on December 6-8 of 2013 . The event will focus on personhood for nonhuman animals, including great apes, cetaceans, and elephants, and will explore the evolving notions of personhood by analyzing them through the frameworks of neuroscience, behavioral science, philosophy, ethics, and law.

The conference will be co-sponsored by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in collaboration with the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale Animal Ethics Group and endorsed by the Nonhuman Rights Project.

Special consideration will be given to discussions of nonhuman animal personhood, both in terms of understanding the history, science, and philosophy behind personhood, and ways to protect animal interests through the establishment of legal precedents and by increasing public awareness.

By the close of the conference, attendees will have gained an enhanced understanding of the neurological, cognitive, and behavioral underpinnings of personhood and those traits required for such consideration; personhood theory; the history of personhood consideration and status (both in terms of philosophical and legal conceptions); and the legal hurdles and requirements for granting personhood status outside of the human species.

The Nonhuman Rights Project will be presenting some research from the past five years including research on the varying legal causes of action that the Nonhuman Rights Project will use to argue legal personhood for specific nonhuman animals.

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Top Rated Comments   
While I think this movement foolish and misguided, I am willing to consider it in return for another change. Right now, unborn humans are not accorded the same considerations of humane slaughter as are cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. If we can pass an Unborn Persons Humane Slaughter Act, then I will consider extending human status to other species. What say you, NARAL?

Failing that, how about we have Planned Parenthood incorporated as a religious institution, The Church of Moloch? Then their medical practices can be exempted, like kosher butchers.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dogs have owners; cats have "staff". Every cat owner knows this.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Coming soon to a courthouse near you-

" I now pronounce you man and chimp. "

The writing was on the wall.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (85)
All Comments   (85)
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Before you start giving any rights to an animal, just remember that mankind has dominion over them.

“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28)

To have any rights is to defy God and make a graven image of His creation. God gave man rights as he is made in His image. Animals are not made in man's image.

In our dominion, we are obliged not to be cruel to animals, but it is our burden, not their rights. As Joe "Shotgun" Biden says, that's a big f*****g deal.

Both Christians and Jews better get with the program or descend into paganism where animals become the equal of man and are made into graven images.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Chimps, Whales, and Elephants obtain human status I wonder how much this will expand our tax base and will it increase the burden on Obamacare?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but if they recognize them as people, then the government can hand out free bananas, and the Democrats can enroll them as voters.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
What makes you think they haven't already enrolled chimps as voters?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the grin this gloomy day.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only reason people from industrialized nations can ask this question is that for us, chimpanzee isn't on the menu. To us, chimp is "bush meat," a very naughty thing. To a hungry Congolese, chimp is just Nature's Bounty.

Something I don't understand: why aren't white-tail deer or pheasants considered "bush meat?" Because they're killed and eaten by affluent white people rather than poor black people?"

Anyway, back to personhood. I see one major problem. Chimpanzees, smart as they may be, cannot really communicate to us (or the legal system) what they actually think, feel, and want for themselves. Which means that, as legal "persons," they'd need a human "advocate" to "interpret" their wants and needs and communicate those to the legal system. And that's dangerous. Such a representative could say anything and the chimps wouldn't know the difference. They couldn't object, they couldn't beg to differ, they couldn't say "Slow down a minute while we think this over." Ultimately, it would be humans deciding what's best for the poor, dumb animals.

Sort of like it was the Communist Party deciding what was best for the poor, dumb workers. Or like the Democrat Party deciding what's best for the poor, dumb African Americans. From a liberal's point of view, chimpanzee personhood would be all positive. It would give him one more protected class to patronize, to lead, and to use as political leverage. He might even figure out a way to cast votes on behalf of his hairy clients.

And when the Chimp Party (made up entirely of homo sapien "vanguards") decides that the chimps "demand" their own, independent Republic of Chimpistan, who's going to argue?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll bet chimps are more conservative than the asses in The Surrender Party.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The thing is, they can communicate. You can teach chimps and gorillas American Sign Language and they have sufficient vocabularies to make their desires known. They also make tools, store and reuse tools, recognize themselves in mirrors, and engage in a level of reciprocal social behavior on a completely different level than something like a dog. They are not just conditioned but rather self motivated and capable of deferring gratification to accomplish a goal. Basically they seem to cross the intellectual threshold into territory that you otherwise see with mentally disabled humans, except they aren't broken (they engage in sophisticated, goal oriented, adult style behavior). Clearly they cannot function in human society, but just as clearly the laws made for dogs, cats and chickens are not a good moral fit.

I'm taking the time to write this because I comment here quite a bit because this is a good rational group and like me, you are mostly sick to death of all the leftist moral equivalency and leveraging of "mascots" like the poor, or the blacks, or the *insert liberal cause celeb*. The point you make about self-appointed guardians using this to ram through absurd laws to do everything from banning guns and light bulbs to making us all property is quite correct, that's exactly what they are trying to do. The problem is, in this case, they have their finger on something real. Some of these non-human primates are special and they need to have a special status. They are not property owning humans any more than a person with a reduced mental capacity would be, but they are also not chickens, any more than that same person would be.

As to the comment about industrialized nations, that's a good thing. Places with immoral oligarchic governments that treat people as property are not the place to worry about the nuance of personhood. unfortunately at the rate we are going you aren't going to worry about that much here in the US either. We're in a race to the bottom at the moment.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The thing is, they can communicate."
They've got The Surrender Party licked then & they're probably more conservative too. Bring on the Chimp Party!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
When a chimpanzee can file his/her own lawsuit in Federal Court we can consider that chimp a person. Of course that implies that chimp completed primary and secondary schooling with passing grades, attended and succeeded in Law School and passed the Bar.
Animal Intelligence: I hear that frequently. Elephants are So smart. Dolphins are SO smart. Chimps are So smart.
Where is the Elephant that has mastered fire to keep warm, or to cook food? Where is the chimp that has mastered English and can communicate with Humans? Where is the dolphin that has learned to navigate on land?
It's fine to say animals have intelligence, but to equate that level of intelligence to Humans is nonsense. It is therefore nonsense to consider them persons as well.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like I said above, you can be sure the chimpanzee will have his very own liberal "advocate" filing the lawsuit "on his behalf." Which means the advocate will say whatever he wants and the chimp won't know the difference. Which is dangerous.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not what I said. I said the chimp files his/her own lawsuit, not some liberal advocate.
The Judge that grants that chimp standing who is represented by a liberal advocate is probably of the same order of intelligence as the chimp. So is the advocate. Both should be disbarred.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you can accept the facts that show that many higher animal species are self-aware, or at least capable of having personalities and feeling, then the logical question is how do we act on this knowledge?

Our own history is full of examples where we denied the capacity of our own to feel pain, or have identity. Much of it stemmed from the desire to see people as commodities.

It would be foolish to repeat that mistake yet again.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
You continue the mistake of equating an animal to a human. Yes it was a mistake for some people to consider other people to be less human then they were. But it is not wrong to consider a chimpanzee less human than a human. Because they are chimpanzees, not humans. Not hard to comprehend.
Does that mean we treat them with disrespect or without compassion? I guess that depends on your comprehension of respect and compassion. Is respect for human life and respect for animal life the same thing? Obviously, no, it's not. Because animals are not humans.
See this cuts both ways. Because you and others equate human and animals, there is little respect or compassion shown for the unborn baby of some women. Because, after all, that baby is not human.
It all gets very confusing. That is if you are confused about the difference between humans and animals.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is little difference between humans and higher animals in their capacity to feel pain, to suffer, to have emotional needs.

To create an artificial distinction is to ignore these commonalities.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
To equate feelings, a capacity to feel pain and to have emotional needs to intelligence is silly.
In your desire to think of man and animal as equals you have made a mockery of the uniqueness of Man.
It all gets very confusing. That is if you are confused about the difference between humans and animals.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
We make pets of some and eat others? I think that's right.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
We can bypass the whole question of "personhood" by simply having compassion for animals. It doesn't matter if that chimp or that dolphin or that Humboldt squid is a "person." It's a living creature, it can feel pain, and if you don't have to inflict suffering on it in order to survive, then don't.

Again, though, we live in a civilization that gives us the luxury of thinking that way. Ten thousand - even one thousand years ago, most people ate whatever they could get their hands on. Some people still do. Compassion doesn't enter into it.

What we have is power over animals - possibly ultimate power (although I think Nature will kill us before we can kill her). Good people use power responsibly, not recklessly and not with cruelty.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
An objection here. Re "These are ethical and scientific questions that we’ve only begun to address. And this weekend at Yale, a conference is underway to wrestle with the question of “What is a person?”"

I am sure us taxpayers are paying for this conference either directly or grants to many of professors in their own work.

I know these are really questions some people for unknown reasons like to explore - but do we really need to be taxed for this?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
A voter who voted for someone because of his skin color does not deserve to be called a person.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course apes are intelligent and conscious even more so that many humans. You want proof - Democrats. No ape is that stupid.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
No ape is that stupid, but Republican leaders are stupider.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's time for comprehensive chimpanzee reform.

Republicans refuse to let them vote.

I nominate Senator McCain to lead the effort.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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