Demanding rights for great apes - Yahoo! News: "MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's parliament is to declare support for rights to life and freedom for great apes on Wednesday, apparently the first time any national legislature will have recognized such rights for non-humans.
Parliament is to ask the government to adhere to the Great Ape Project, which would mean recognizing that our closest genetic relatives should be part of a 'community of equals' with humans, supporters of the resolution said.
The move in a country better known for bull-fighting would follow a string of social reforms which have converted Spain from one of Europe's most conservative nations into a liberal trailblazer.
Backers of the resolution expect support from the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose government has legalized gay marriage and reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education.
'With this, Spain will make itself a world leader in protection of the great apes,' said Pedro Pozas, general secretary of the Great Ape Project's Spanish branch.
The resolution, presented by a Green Party parliamentarian, prompted criticism and some ridicule at first.
Spanish media quoted the Catholic Archbishop of Pamplona as saying it was ludicrous to grant apes rights not enjoyed by unborn children, in a reference to Spanish abortion laws.
But a spokesman for Archbishop Fernando Sebastian said he had been taken out of context and now supported the resolution.
"We are in favor of defending animals, but people come first," Father Santos Villanueva told Reuters.
Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, arguing apes were so close to humans they deserved rights to life, freedom and not to be tortured.
"When a loved one dies, they grieve for a long time. They can solve complex puzzles that stump most two-year-old humans," said Singer.
The Spanish move could set a precedent for greater legal protection for other animals, including elephants, whales and dolphins, said Paul Waldau, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University.
"We were born into a society where humans alone are the sole focus, and we begin to expand to the non-human great apes. It isn't easy for us to see how far that expansion will go, but it's very clear we need to expand beyond humans," Waldau said.
There are only a few hundred apes in Spain, mainly chimpanzees. But the resolution would also push the government to help endangered populations in Africa and Asia, said Pozas, speaking to Reuters at a sanctuary outside Madrid sheltering half a dozen chimpanzees rescued from abuse.