Chimpanzee Liberation? Why Animal Rights and Human Rights Cannot Coexist

A chimpanzee eats in the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 27, 2018. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)We should treat animals humanely and protect them from abuse, not extend to them the status of persons.

We live in profoundly anti-human times. Progressive cultural movements across a broad array of issues, from bioethics to environmentalism, seek to push us off the pedestal of unique value in both culture and public policy.

Many academics, biological scientists, and evolutionary philosophers have joined the anti-human crusade. Most recently, a “manifesto” published in the science journal Human Evolution declares that chimpanzees and bonobos (together, the two species constitute the genus Pan) should be considered legal “persons,” “emancipated” from human control, and granted fundamental, legally enforceable “rights.”

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How do the scientist and philosopher authors justify their “apes are people too” conclusion? By blatantly anthropomorphizing the animals’ natural behavior — an approach pioneered by the primatologist Jane Goodall, who attributed thoughts and motivations to the animals she wrote about in the science papers she published. (Unsurprisingly, the preparation of the manifesto was supported, in part, by the Jane Goodall Institute.) The manifesto authors assert, for example, that chimpanzees and bonobos have “culture”

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