There has recently been a legal case in the U.S. brought by the Great Ape Project to extend human rights to chimpanzees. Spain has already granted ‘personhood’ to the great apes while in Britain and several other European countries experiments on them are banned.
This is to be welcomed. The difference between humans and apes is not in kind but only in degree, whatever Christians say about the existence of the soul or philosophers about reason. They are not made for our use any more than the rest of nature. We all have consciousness, experience pleasure and pain and have a sense of being a person.
The trouble of extending legal rights to great apes however is that a list of rights is often arbitrary and contradictory. What of the ‘right to life’ clashing sometimes with the ‘right to property’? Is it right for a starving woman for example to steal a loaf of bread?
Again,rights are also enforced by a ‘legal’ central authority in the shape of a government or a state. It is therefore better to recognize that we all have an equal claim to be free. Humans beings as well great apes should be released from the bars and briars which confine them in order to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.