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What Binti Jua Knew - Comments

debacles's Avatar Comment 1 by debacles

"If we write them off as irrational and amoral animals, we will fail to grasp the depth of their suffering at the hands of our own species -- a suffering that is cognitive and emotional as well as physical. "

I couldn't agree more. It's a sad story we'll never truly know.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 10:11:00 UTC | #223015

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

Binti Jua was quoted as saying, "Would you people please watch your kids more carefully? I'm trying to set a good example here".

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 10:16:00 UTC | #223018

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 3 by NewEnglandBob

Can we trade? We can extend rights to Apes but take them away from religious fundamentalists.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 11:24:00 UTC | #223067

kkelly's Avatar Comment 4 by kkelly

I'm sure all the spending on healthcare for PVS patients would be more than enough to cover great ape conservancy.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 11:30:00 UTC | #223071

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 5 by Cartomancer

What I don't understand is what the opposition lobby stand to gain from NOT extending human rights to the great apes and, proportionally, to other animals?

Is cruelty to animals a lucrative business in Spain? Will people's jobs suffer if orangs and bonobos and gorillas are afforded extra legal protections?

Do they think that it will somehow destroy the whole concept of human rights, rather than strengthening it by extending it further afield than it previously was? Is it rather like the gay marriage "issue" in that respect, where conservative bigots seem to think that if gay people can marry then straight people's suddenly marriages won't mean anything?

Why would anyone be against such a measure?

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 11:40:00 UTC | #223079

petrucio's Avatar Comment 6 by petrucio

Not only is it completely wrong to say they are irrational and amoral, but taking it a step further, even amongst freethinkers, almost everyone I know of seems to take as granted that humans are the only self-conscious/self-aware species.

I know that goes way beyond being rational or moral, but I think it's a much more important question, and harder to answer. Maybe impossible to answer. But most just assume otherwise without even pondering it.

And is a question that we better learn to ponder, since we'll probably have to deal with it in some decades, when machines pass the Turing test. (Have I started a flame war?)

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #223087

posiedon's Avatar Comment 7 by posiedon

Is cruelty to animals a lucrative business in Spain?

You'd better believe it! Bullfighting anyone?

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 12:51:00 UTC | #223111

beeline's Avatar Comment 8 by beeline

This whole issue becomes somewhat of a minefield when we try to address rights without also addressing responsibilities, because neither makes much sense without the other.

What are the responsibilities of a gorilla, living in the wild or in a zoo? How can we gauge their place in our (or their) society well enough to be clear about what we can do to them, and what we can expect from them?

Obviously a wild gorilla can quite easily kill a human, given sufficient cause - a person appearing to threaten its young, for example - but it's going to be impossible to break the idea of restraint to gorillas so that people aren't killed. Our moral and ethical codes wouldn't make much sense to them, and why should they?

Giving rights to something that isn't as smart as us is a very, very sticky area. Not that I don't think they deserve rights, mind you, but that's more of a personal, emotional issue, rather than one that I could easily 'rationalise'.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 12:55:00 UTC | #223112

J Mac's Avatar Comment 9 by J Mac

"Giving rights to something that isn't as smart as us is a very, very sticky area."

I've worked with MANY species of animals in many environments. And while this is said a bit in jest, it's also a bit true that most non-human animals I've worked with are far smarter than many religious fundamentalists I've worked with.

"Obviously a wild gorilla can quite easily kill a human, given sufficient cause"

True, but far fewer gorillas will kill a man without sufficient cause while men kill men with virtually no reason at all.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:06:00 UTC | #223120

Duff's Avatar Comment 10 by Duff

The issue is that if they are given "rights", it will be more difficult to experiment on them. Not as simple a question as it appears on the surface. There are two competing spheres at work here: science and humanity. Care to choose a side?

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:09:00 UTC | #223123

beeline's Avatar Comment 11 by beeline

True, but far fewer gorillas will kill a man without sufficient cause while men kill men with virtually no reason at all.

And they all trample over their victims' rights, of course, and are justifiably punished for it.

That's the other problem too - whether transgressing the rights of one is worth it to preserve the rights of many, and not even of the same species. This brings in things like animal testing (monkey brains), epidemic prevention (ebola, foot-and-mouth, influenza, etc.) and even domestic breeding in extreme cases.

It's almost impossible to have a well-defined idea of 'rights' in the light of all these activities. It'll be very interested to hear what the Spanish courts make of it, and if anyone else tries it.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:24:00 UTC | #223129

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 13 by robotaholic

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:24:00 UTC | #223131

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 12 by robotaholic

Duff - science

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:24:00 UTC | #223130

J Mac's Avatar Comment 14 by J Mac

"The issue is that if they are given "rights", it will be more difficult to experiment on them."


Ever try to get a primate research proposal through an IACUC? It's already easier to experiment on humans as humans can give consent.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:29:00 UTC | #223132

Lemniscate's Avatar Comment 15 by Lemniscate

Cartomancer, I think a lot of the opposition to ape rights comes from the implicit admission that humans are not quite as uniquely moral and emotional as many think. This feeling of the wondrous uniqueness of human morality is a well ingrained one, unfortunately for the apes.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:40:00 UTC | #223136

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 16 by SilentMike

If an ape who saves a baby is moral and worthy of praise, is an ape who kills a baby worthy of scorn? Would you put ape killers and ape rapists (of other apes) in ape jail? If an animal is not amoral then it should be seen as potentially immoral. Chimps can be quite nasty. They use violence to get their way, kill each other, and have been known to practice cannibalism. We're talking about full human rights here, and not just some limited version of so called "animal rights". If a chimpanzee has human rights then his tormentor, whether human or a fellow chimpanzee, should be held accountable. It seems to me that there is no avoiding the fact that this coin has two sides.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:06:00 UTC | #223153

J Mac's Avatar Comment 17 by J Mac

Ahh, where'd my post go. Lemme try again:

"Chimps can be quite nasty. They use violence to get their way, kill each other, and have been known to practice cannibalism."

The same can be said of humans.

"Would you put ape killers and ape rapists (of other apes) in ape jail?"

There is a difference between homicide and justified killing. The last several people I've met who killed other people got medals not prison sentences.

If you're going to look at both sides of the coin, use the same glasses.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:25:00 UTC | #223159

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 18 by Diacanu


Would you put ape killers and ape rapists (of other apes) in ape jail?

That's up to the ape cops and ape judges.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:31:00 UTC | #223161

hawt4dawk's Avatar Comment 19 by hawt4dawk

Don't worry, folks, they're not going to move in next door and start taking up your parking spaces. :) edit: I have to add, I'm with the ethicists on this, since plenty of scientific research can continue, which will be beneficial to humans. Chimpanzees differ genetically from us by 1.23%. I've read that some chimps' cognitive level is like toddlers or pre-schoolers. Maybe JMac or someone else will know. They're not going to be subject to the same laws as adult humans.

Here is a link and a copy of the declaration as it was proposed to the Spanish parliament. I don't know for sure if it was modified or not.

We demand the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans.

The community of equals is the moral community within which we accept certain basic moral principles or rights as governing our relations with each other and enforceable at law. Among these principles or rights are the following:

1. The Right to Life
The lives of members of the community of equals are to be protected. Members of the community of equals may not be killed except in very strictly defined circumstances, for example, self-defense.

2. The Protection of Individual Liberty
Members of the community of equals are not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; if they should be imprisoned without due legal process, they have the right to immediate release. The detention of those who havenot been convicted of any crime, or of those who are not criminally liable, should be allowed only where it can be shown to be for their own good, or necessary to protect the public from a member of the community who wouldclearly be a danger to others if at liberty. In such cases, members of the community of equals must have the right to appeal, either directly or, if they lack the relevant capacity, through an advocate, to a judicial tribunal.

3. The Prohibition of Torture
The deliberate infliction of severe pain on a member of the community of equals, either wantonly or for an alleged benefit to others, is regarded as torture, and is wrong.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:31:00 UTC | #223162

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 20 by SilentMike

17. Comment #235806 by J Mac

The same can be said of humans.


That doesn't address my point. I was saying that if a Chimpanzee can be a victim of a crime, why not a perpetrator? Are we to treat Chimpanzees who kill other Chimpanzees (or humans) as murders? If apes can be good, than they can be bad. If they can be murdered, then they can murder. Are you ready to hold them accountable? Are you ready to protect them, and their human rights (ape rights?) from each other?

...justified killing

Again, this is an evasion and not an answer.

I seriously doubt all chimpanzee violence can be considered justified. If you see apes as having moral responsibiliy, how can you justify the killing of young? How can you justify the forming of raiding parties that kill members of neighbouring groups? Of course we don't worry about that stuff when we talk about "animals". We don't care that lions that take over a pride kill their predcessors' young. Lions don't have human rights. But if apes have the same legal rights as humans...

As I read your answer the jist of it is "humans are nasty too". OK. I'll grant you that. Humans can be very nasty. That, however, is completely beside the point. The point is whether or not apes should be held morally and legaly accountable for their nastyness, as humans are.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:44:00 UTC | #223166

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 21 by Border Collie

How many of you saw Children of Men? How did you feel when there were no children in the world? How would you feel if there were no chimps, no tigers, no gorillas, no elephants? The answer lies in there.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:47:00 UTC | #223167

J Mac's Avatar Comment 22 by J Mac

No the "humans are nasty" part was meant to be humorous, though it is true.

My point was:
"If you see apes as having moral responsibiliy, how can you justify the killing of young? How can you justify the forming of raiding parties that kill members of neighbouring groups?"

We don't have any trouble justifying it when humans do it. So why should there be a problem justifying when chimps do it?

If you can show me the animal correlate of homicide I'd be awfully impressed. It just doesn't happen. They do go to war, but so do we. In fact our wars are much more brutal than theirs, and for much less significant reasons.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:52:00 UTC | #223168

hawt4dawk's Avatar Comment 23 by hawt4dawk

I imagine, SilentMike, that this will open up a new branch of judiciary specialty and rehabilitation. Many apes already live "in jail" and they haven't done anything. Your "tone" as I read it sounded a bit scornful. Extending them human rights and constructing laws to protect them from that vantage point may considerably reduce their suffering and improve the lives of captive apes. In some situations, if a captive ape commits a crime, presumably there will be rehabilitation rather than "jail" and we may learn something from those processes that help us understand ourselves better.

The main thing right now is that these creatures are endangered in the wild and getting governmental support to create and enforce protective laws is critical to their species survival -- typical animal rights laws are quite inadequate or they wouldn't still be endangered.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:55:00 UTC | #223169

J Mac's Avatar Comment 24 by J Mac

They are not going to put on business suits and sip starbucks capaccionos while reading the new york times. They are chimps. They have their own society and their own culture. China's laws are different than america's laws. Japan's laws are different yet. Extending rights to an individual does not mean that they have to be assimilated into our culture.... THAT would be cruel.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:58:00 UTC | #223170

hawt4dawk's Avatar Comment 25 by hawt4dawk

24. Comment #235817 by J Mac

well, except for Starbucks calendars. :)

Border Collie -- no wonder my husband says I will be upset by "TChildren of Men", but should still see it. I didn't realize their were no children in the world. Don't tell me anymore! :)

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 15:00:00 UTC | #223171

Ishruul's Avatar Comment 26 by Ishruul

Human's right to apes?

Is it possible geneticians or biologist found out that it's now possible to breed with the great apes, therefore, being the same specie by extension giving them logically the same right as human.

Baby hybrid should be consider human or apes?
Stalin should have used gorillas!

Science is fun!

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 15:35:00 UTC | #223176

Ishruul's Avatar Comment 27 by Ishruul

Wait a sec, does that mean some missionaries can go get pawned by a tribe of silver back gorilla?

I'd really like to see that ;)

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 16:09:00 UTC | #223183

A's Avatar Comment 28 by A

I have heard this story innumerable times and it often irks me that we only ever hear one side of the story.

What is rarely reported is that earlier in the same month (August 1996) when the three year old boy took this awful fall into the enclosure, knocking his head and badly concussing himself - only to be tended to by Binti Jua and taken to one of the keepers access doors so he could receive treatment from 'his own kind'- an equally tense situation unfolded in Dickinson, North Dakota.

A six year old girl, called Mary-Anne Lee, out of sight of her mother, similarly climbed the ape enclosure barrier at Dickinson City Zoo and, after losing her balance, fell almost 18 feet onto a largely concrete floor. In a terrible echo of the Chicago incident she was also rendered unconscious by the fall after hitting her head on one of the enclosure's 'feeding stations'.

Panicked onlookers watched as the adult apes, both male and female, approached where she had landed, possibly curious, possibly feeling threatened by her presence. It is worth noting that an adult male ape when threatened is very easily capable of killing an adult man, a small child would stand little chance in an attack.

The apes approached the child but, only feet from her still body, backed off and gathered into a group, almost as if collectively communicating their apparent 'concern' at what they had found. A minute or so later the group broke from their nestled pack and one by one lowered themselves to their knees, clasped their hands in front of themselves and prayed to Australopithecus for the girl to be carried safely to the 'outer kingdom'.

Keepers took almost 1 hour and 40 minutes to disperse the 'congregation', but the extended worship and failure to reach the girl in time led to her death from head injuries sustained in the fall.

The apes now have a chapel named in her honour.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 17:22:00 UTC | #223192

Nova's Avatar Comment 29 by Nova

Comment 6 petrucio,

It's ridiculous to suggest that such a massive thing as self-awareness could all be wedged in the tiny developmental gap between us and the other apes, I know that my fellow apes have self-awareness as surely as I know my fellow humans do.


address rights without also addressing responsibilities
How silly, name the responsibilities of a human baby, I can name the rights.

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 17:50:00 UTC | #223194

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 30 by NewEnglandBob the responsibilities of a human baby...

Sleep, urinate, eat, spit up, defecate, cry?

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 18:00:00 UTC | #223195