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The Spanish Parliament's Environmental Committee made animal rights history yesterday (6/25/08) by passing resolutions that, if approved by the full Parliament as expected, would require Spain to comply with and promote the international Great Ape Project. The Great Ape Project was founded in 1993 by philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri, who argued that all Great Apes, including bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, should enjoy the right to life, freedom, and the absence of torture.
The resolutions would end harmful experiments on apes, and ban their use in circuses, television commercials, and films. Spanish zoos would be allowed to continue holding an estimated 315 apes, but drastic improvements would be required. Violations would be criminal offenses under Spain's penal code.
In Defense of Animals (IDA) applauds these historic steps. "Believe it or not, Spain has passed the United States in protecting the Great Apes," said Dr. Elliot M. Katz, a veterinarian and President of In Defense of Animals, who noted the Environmental Committee resolutions have cross-party support. "IDA urges Americans to contact their federal Representatives to pass the Great Ape Protection Act."
Unlike the historic Spanish resolutions, the U.S. Great Ape Protection Act, currently before Congress, does not extend rights but is a step in the right direction. "As the most exploitative nation in the world, by far, of chimpanzees, the U.S. has a special responsibility to stop the abuse," added Dr. Katz.
The Spanish Committee's actions reflect the huge ethical change regarding how we view our closest genetic relatives. Spearheaded by groundbreaking scientists such as Dr. Jane Goodall, we now know that chimpanzees use tools, teach their young, and have their own cultures. The cruel human culture of chimpanzee exploitation that results in their being used in invasive experiments must change in the U.S., as it has changed in countries like New Zealand, the U.K. and Austria, all of which have banned chimpanzee experimentation.
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