UN Rights for…Apes

UN Rights for…Apes
By Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 8, 2007

UNESCO and the United Nations Environmental Programme are the lead sponsors of the Great Apes Survival Project, whose purpose is to save the great apes and their habitat from extinction through intergovernmental dialogue and policy making, conservation planning initiatives, technical and scientific support.  The
United States is a donor country for this project and has signed the Kinshasa Declaration, which focuses on fostering environmental conditions to save and sustain the lives of great apes.  There are no political statements about equal rights for animals or immoral human behavior depriving animals of their legal rights within the text of the Kinshasa Declaration.  It is all about cooperation toward achievement of a positive outcome.  

Unfortunately, however, this laudable effort is being co-opted by some of its more radical promoters in order to give apes the legal status of human beings.  Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert who is a patron of the UN conservation project, is also a co-founder of a similarly named endeavor called the Great Ape Project.  Only its mission is not simply to save apes’ lives.  Rather, Goodall’s Great Ape Project is pressing the United Nations to endorse a Declaration on Great Apes, which would extend what the project calls the “community of equals” to chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.  

Applying the principles of our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment due process protections, the advocates of apes’ rights want to end the detention of apes that have neither been convicted of any crime or pose any other significant danger to themselves or others.  These apes would also have a right of appeal to a judicial tribunal.  Once these legal rights are established, the Great Ape Project would demand the release of approximately 3,100 apes that are currently being held in the
U.S., including 1,280 in biomedical research. 


The underlying premise in all of this is that the genetic make-up of apes and humans is virtually one and the same.  Those who believe this cite as ‘proof’ that “[B]etween the two of us we could even have a 0.5% difference in our DNA. The difference between a Chimpanzee and us is only 1.23%.”   Putting aside such minor differences as spoken language, reasoning power, consciousness of mortality and spiritual awareness, we are told that the “chimpanzee is an intelligent being…who appreciates advances and civilization”.   


The idea of granting judicial standing to apes is an example of what George Orwell had in mind when he said that “[Y]ou have to be an intellectual to believe such nonsense.”  Not surprisingly, then, it turns out that the Great Ape Project is receiving support from the very same UN-sponsored Great Apes Survival Project that the
United States has been funding in the mistaken belief that this was one cause at the United Nations that could actually remain untainted by the ideas of the lunatic Left.


But before we dismiss the whole thing as nothing more than grist for late night comedy, we should consider one finding from Goodall’s years of observing chimpanzee behavior that focused on their aggressive behavior toward one another.  She was taken aback while recording a “four-year war” in which members of the Kasakela group systematically annihilated members of the “Kahama” splinter group:


            “I had known aggression could flare up, sometimes for seemingly trivial reasons; chimpanzees are volatile by nature, yet for the most part aggression within the community is more bluster and threat than fierce fighting — a whole lot of ‘sound and fury signifying nothing.’ Then suddenly we found that chimpanzees could be brutal — that they, like us, had a dark side to their nature.”  

But then she asked precisely the wrong question about what she had observed: My question was: How far along our human path, which has led to hatred and evil and full-scale war, have chimpanzees traveled?”   To the contrary, her question should have been how far have human beings been able to travel away from the innate aggressive instincts of the chimpanzee with whom we share so much DNA?


What separates us from her chimpanzees is indeed the thin veneer of civilization with the restraints that it imposes through religion and laws.  But, as Sigmund Freud wrote in his book Civilization and its Discontents, “[C]ivilized society is perpetually menaced with disintegration through this primary hostility of men towards one another.”  

Religion has the capacity to lift us spiritually out of this muck by making us humble in the presence of the wonderment of the imponderable universe and giving us the foundation for ethical behavior.   However, in the wrong hands, religion has buried us deep within the muck by sanctioning violence in the name of a hateful ‘supreme’ being that has been created for evil purposes. 


Government and laws can similarly serve bad or good ends.  They can be abused to achieve, through more sophisticated means, the same ends as the Kasakela group of chimpanzees – domination of one group over another.  On the other hand, the farthest that we have managed to come away from the self-destructive path that man shares with his non-human primate cousins is the system of pluralistic democracy operating under the rule of law that derives from the sovereignty of the people.   While far from perfect, it manages to channel our hostile instincts into peaceful political rivalry out of which the competition of ideas hopefully creates policies and laws that benefit the most people while protecting freedom of thought and conscience.  Our democracy respects all religions for what they can teach us, but they are kept as separate as possible from the instruments of state.


The fanatical Islamists seek to destroy this most advanced system of civilization known to man.  The idea of human progress is foreign to them.  They reject any religion but their own and despise any law derived from the sovereignty of the people.  This gives their male power hierarchy the green light to kill apostates and infidels in their quest for world domination of Islam and the right to subjugate women to conditions of near slavery while the males enjoy their instinctual freedom.  In short, they have not risen above the Kasakela tribal group of chimpanzees who kept fighting until they annihilated their enemy.  


Interestingly, Dr. Goodall does not see this parallel.   Instead she seems to believe that all mankind is homogenous and can be compared on a similar basis with the psyche of gorillas and chimpanzees since we are so close to each other genetically.  Indeed, she said that “[F]anaticism shouldn’t be confused with Islam” and went on to equate the millions of Islamic fanatics who have joined or funded the ranks of the global jihad terrorist cause with what she calls “a fanatical fringe in the Christian far right” and “a fanatical fringe in Judaism”.  


This is where Goodall’s obsession with the genetic similarities between humans and apes blinds her to the differences in our respective capacities to progress from generation to generation away from abject submission to our base aggressive instincts.  But even mankind’s progression is not linear for all of us.  Christianity and Judaism have each gone through their own versions of reformation against the excesses of their past, which has led to moderation in the manifestation of their core beliefs.  Islam has not gone through any such soul-searching, which is why it is unique today in the mass atrocities that continue to be committed in its name.  If Goodall wants to use her research with chimpanzees to help human beings behave better toward one another, she should first acknowledge how far some of us have progressed and how close the sectarian battles we are witnessing in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world resemble the four year tribal war among chimpanzees that she was so shocked observing in the wild.


In short, it is time to stop monkeying around with the truth.

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