February 27, 2024

Practical problems of ape personhood

Who will police them?

Conceding that apes
are persons could be expensive, says an Australian philosopher, as we would
have to police ape societies to prevent assault and murder. Writing in Oxford’s
Practical Ethics blog, Dr
Steve Clarke
says that “If we take the idea that non human great apes have the
right to life then surely we have a responsibility to police all ape
communities to uphold the right to life, in the same way that we try to ensure
that the right to human life is upheld, by policing human societies.”

Two objections immediately arise. First, that it would be
too expensive. Chimpanzees and bonobos are a feisty lot and kill each other and
other apes. But, writes Dr Clarke, a person is a person, and refusing to
protect ape persons against violence would be “highly discriminatory”. One
solution would be to “redeploy police from the safest human communities to the
more violent ape communities.” Second, apes are wild animals and should not be
interfered with. This is understandable, he says, “But animals can only be wild
animals if humans don’t attempt to uphold their rights.” ~ Practical
Ethics, Feb 26

Michael Cook
animal rights