Friday, January 10, 2014

Animals are not Humans

"Cousin, we need to talk."  So begins a full page advertisement in local newspapers, under a photograph of a chimpanzee.  The chimp continues, "It's been seven million years since we shared a mother, but we still share almost 99% of our DNA. Since we're family, I'm asking for your help."  This is a well-intentioned request for funds for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada.

Unfortunately, the attitude inherent in this advertisement contributes to the current campaign to demean the human species.  The incentive to de-humanize humans, or humanize animals, has a long history. In his 1975 book, Animal Liberation, Princeton professor Peter Singer argued that highly aware animals, such as the chimp, are owed more respect and protection that mentally-challenged humans, more than babies unaware of their existence.

Animals and their environment deserve protection, as the well-intentioned ad advocates, but not at the cost of equating animals to human beings.

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