March 1, 2024


A bill in the Spanish Parliament has given fresh heart to philosopher Peter Singer in his struggle to extend the basic rights of life, liberty and freedom from torture to the great apes. Francisco Garrido, a Green who belongs to the Socialist bloc in parliament, wants Spain to become the first European country to endorse Singer’s ideas. He says that the great apes have a cultural level comparable to a two or three-year-old child and that humans share 98.4% of their genes with chimpanzees and 97.7% with gorillas. Singer adds out that a group of scientists proposed three years ago that chimpanzees are so close genetically that they ought to be included in the genus Homo.

Singer argues that humans have little to fear from being more open towards the great apes. They are not really needed for medical research anyway; those in zoos need not be set free; and they could be euthanased if they were suffering unbearably. Giving them rights would only mean that they could not be owned and used for entertainment and amusement. Singer acknowledges that this could pave the way for extension of rights to all primates, or all mammals, or even all animals. But, he contends, “We should not be deterred from doing right now by the fear that we may later be persuaded that we should do right again.”