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June 24, 2002
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Recognition time for Bonzo? When I read The Ape and The Sushi master, it shook me. And others feel the same [link 1] way[link 2]. But I was still taken aback by the language in this story.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen (7 comments total)

 
Is this an audition piece for 9622?
posted by dogmatic at 5:04 PM on June 24, 2002


Monkeys are animals. People are human. Never the twain shall meet. Look, I love animals -- got a huge soft spot for 'em, can barely resist taking in every damn stray cat in the neighborhood, nearly cry when I see a flattened squirrel in the road, and *did* cry when I accidentally ran over a wayward turtle several years ago. But. Let's keep perspective here...the monkey "donated" her "paintings?!" There's a line that was crossed somewhere by these kind-hearted people.
posted by davidmsc at 5:11 PM on June 24, 2002


Which reminds me, here: Bedtime for Bonzo.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:54 PM on June 24, 2002


The story Jerry Was A Man, one of Robert Heinlein's more mawkish and sentimental efforts, comes to mind. A synopsis:

From this column by Ross MacKenzie of the Richmand Times-Dispatch:
THE WORLD'S richest woman learns that trusted chimpanzees in a made-to-order animal factory are treated as slaves, and once past their usefulness on the production line are ground into dog food. She adopts an aging chimp named Jerry, and on his behalf files suit to establish his "humanity."

The grounds? Primarily that he can make literal and moral judgments, long deemed the separator between men and beasts. Given Jerry's demonstrated ability to distinguish between right and wrong, the court judges Jerry to be a man - thereby saving him from the grinder.

In today's real world, Heinlein's science-fiction queries apply with even greater force.

Do traditional man-beast distinctions still apply? What is an animal and what a man? What are our humanity-related obligations to these chimps, etc.? Do chimps have rights - and if so, what sort?
MacKenzie decides against ape rights in the end. This quote from a historical sciences discussion group makes the argument in favor of keeping his questions open:

We are not passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are crew, and it's about time we took our duties seriously.

Of course, considering the great job we're doing taking care of ourselves...
posted by y2karl at 10:50 PM on June 24, 2002


oh, darn, forgot to delete the synopis line--one's in the link, one's in the quote. D'oh!
posted by y2karl at 10:51 PM on June 24, 2002


My position - if it's wrong to do it to a retarded 2 year old human, it's wrong to do it to a chimp.

Consider - if my daughter, who thankfully is a happy healthy 6 year old, were a drooling eejit with no hope of progress, would I be happy for her to be used for drug testing? Or spare parts for a superior sibling? Hell no.

Why then should I extend any less protection to an adult entity who may not know what I know, but who can feel what I can feel, and evidently can think about it too?

I really did have unsettling moments reading the story I linked - apes are animals, not people. But the more I think about it, and the more I ask myself what the criteria for "Person" are other than classification as homo sapiens, the less the article's treatment of a chimpanzee as a person bothers me.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:40 AM on June 25, 2002


I, for one, agree. Our great ape cousins fall somewhere in between the categories of animal or man. The moral ramifications of this seem endless--the bush meat trade in Africa comes first to mind, animal research second--and it seems the whole question is something most people aren't ready to contemplate yet. But it's worth the effort, I think.
posted by y2karl at 2:38 PM on June 27, 2002


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