Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
17 October 1999  Issue


New Zealand's Parliament has created a world first by putting specific protection for non-human hominids, also known as great apes, into legislation.

In passing its new Animal Welfare Act on Thursday, the New Zealand Parliament has prohibited the use of all great apes in research, testing, or teaching "unless such use is in the best interests of the non-human hominid" or its species.

There are five great ape species: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and humans, and all are in the same genetic family.

"This requirement recognizes the advanced cognitive and emotional capacity of great apes," said New Zealand's Minister for Food and Fibre, John Luxton, who was responsible for the passage of the bill through Parliament.

Such recognition is based on scientific evidence that the nonhuman great apes share not only our genes but also basic human mental traits, such as self-awareness, intelligence and other forms of mental insight, complex communications and social systems, and even the ability to master some human language skills.

"New Zealand is the first country in the world to legislate in this way," said Mr. Luxton.

The Great Ape Project-International has hailed the groundbreaking legislation as part of the trend toward recognizing the complex mental, social and individual realities of other animals' lives.

That trend is also evident in the explosion of interest shown by U.S. law schools in the status of other animals, most recently confirmed by Harvard University's decision to offer an animal law course in the Spring of 2000.

"Ultimately, GAP would like to see the nonhuman great apes accorded standing in legal systems throughout the world," said the organization's vice-president, Paul Waldau. "This would permit them to be protected by rights to life, liberty, and freedom from torture. Additionally, we'd like to have the United Nations provide realistic recognition and protections."

The numbers of nonhuman great apes have plummeted this century, as free-living populations have increasingly fallen victim to the commercial bush meat trade and deforestation. More than 3,000 individuals are held in captivity around the world. All of the nonhuman great ape species are listed as threatened.

The Great Ape Project
P.O. Box 19492
Portland, OR 97280-0492
[email protected]
[email protected]

The Great Ape Project Homepage:

The Declaration on Great Apes:


Bonobo 98.8 Vulnerable 50,000 Congo
Chimpanzee 98.6 Vulnerable 150,000 Central & West
Gorilla 98.1 Vulnerable 150,000 Central Africa
Orangutan 97.6 Endangered 30,000 Indonesia;

wspa 1999

Source: [email protected]

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