Infanticide is Okay But Peter Singer Says Chimps Should Have Human Rights

Opinion   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Oct 27, 2014   |   6:00PM   |   Washington, DC

There he goes again. Peter Singer–who has argued that cognitively devastated people should have been used instead of chimps in the creation of the hepatitis vaccine–urges a court to impose chimp personhood on society.

Why? Well, because he wants to destroy human exceptionalism

And what could accomplish that task better than “breaking the species barrier” (his term from The Great Ape Project) by making some animals legally and morally equivalent to people–thereby reducing us (and our self-perception) to just another animal in the forest.

petersinger7But Singer doesn’t get into that, for obvious reasons, in his Daily News column on making chimps persons. Instead he invokes emotionalism. From “Chimpanzees Are People Too:”

Tommy is 26 years old. He is being held in solitary confinement in a wire cage. He has never been convicted of any crime, or even accused of one. He is not in Guantanamo, but in upstate Gloversville.

How is this possible? Because Tommy is a chimpanzee.

I have pointed out previously in writing about this case, that the Nonhuman Rights Project has not sought to improve Tommy’s welfare. For example, they have not, to the best of my knowledge, called in the animal welfare authorities to conduct an investigation.

If the law permits chimps to be kept in ways harmful to these magnificent animals, change the law to create proper care requirements. Neither Wise–nor Singer–promotes this proper animal welfare approach.

Instead, NHRP is using Tommy for its own ideological purposes. e.g., as an excuse to have a court rule that chimps are equivalent to human beings.

Singer simply asserts that chimps are persons because of their intelligence and supposed rudimentary moral sense.  (No way are chimps moral agents. Only we are.) He then invokes a straw man:

Contrary to the caricatures of some opponents of this lawsuit, declaring a chimpanzee a person doesn’t mean giving him or her the right to vote, attend school or sue for defamation. It simply means giving him or her the most basic, fundamental right of having legal standing, rather than being considered a mere object.

I may have missed it: But I don’t know anyone who has claimed that allowing chimps to be persons would require that they vote.

But it would require that they have equal legal and moral standing in every way–which Singer conveniently forgets to mention.

That goal isn’t about improving their welfare and standards of care–fully in keeping with human exceptionalism–but rather, is aimed at destroying the unique value of human life; AGENDA 1 for animal rights activists.

Singer then brings up an irrelevancy:

Over the past 30 years, European laboratories have, in recognition of the special nature of chimpanzees, freed them from research labs. That left only the United States still using chimpanzees in medical research, and last year the National Institutes of Health announced that it was retiring almost all of the chimpanzees utilized in testing and sending them to a sanctuary.

If the nation’s leading medical research agency has decided that, except possibly in very unusual circumstances, it will not use chimpanzees as research subjects, why are we allowing individuals to lock them up for no good reason at all?

The chimp research decision–note that they can still be used in special cases–was based on animal welfare principles, not animal rights. (Hit this link for my post about the NIH decision.)

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Then, the usual Leftist resort to judicial tyranny:

It is time for the courts to recognize that the way we treat chimpanzees is indefensible. They are persons and we should end their wrongful imprisonment.


Note, that Singer slyly uses the supposed abuse of Tommy to argue that we should not be able to use chimps instrumentally at all. Ever. For any reason.

But as I said, even that, isn’t what the case is really all about. It’s just the pretext. For if some animals can be elevated to personhood, it also means some people will be demoted to non-personhood–essentially dehumanization, for which Singer has advocated for decades. As I wrote some time ago in the Weekly Standard:

These and other concerted efforts to knock ourselves off the pedestal of exceptionalism are terribly misguided. The way we act is based substantially on what kind of being we perceive ourselves to be. Thus, if we truly want to make this a better and more humane world, the answer is not to think of ourselves as inhabiting the same moral plane as animals–none of which can even begin to comprehend rights. Rather, it is to embrace the unique importance of being human.

That is why rights should be seen objectively intrinsic to our humanity. Cut to its core, personhood theory is actually about opening the door to treating some of us as less than human. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.