Advocates of great ape personhood consider the few hominid apes (the chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans) to be "persons" as opposed to "animals". They seek legal recognition of this status.
The most famous such advocate is Jane Goodall, appointed a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations to fight the bushmeat trade and end ape extinction, which personhood advocates refer to as "ape genocide". Other well known advocates involved are Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer.
Goodall's longitudinal studies revealed the social and family life of chimps to be very similar to that of human beings in most respects. She herself calls them individuals, and claims they relate to her as an individual member of the clan. Laboratory studies of ape language ability, caring for pets, etc. began to reveal other human traits, as did genetics, and eventually three of the great apes (all but the orangutan) were reclassified as being hominids.
This plus rising ape extinction and the animal rights movement began to put pressure on nations to recognize them as having limited human rights, and being legal "persons". In response to this pressure, the UK banned most medical experimentation on chimpanzees, a very notable success for the activists, as primate testing is usually considered an important part of medical research.
Last updated: 05-20-2005 04:00:11