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US Court To Decide If Chimps Have Human Rights

Image source: NYTimes

Image source: NYTimes

A New York judge heard a case Wednesday of two chimpanzees whose lawyer is arguing that they are being detained “unlawfully.”

This is being championed by well-known ethicist Peter Singer, who argues that this case is “narrowing the gulf” between humans and animals.

The chimpanzees  at Stony Brook University in New York are there for biomedical experiments. They’re named Hercules and Leo.

“That provides the first glimmer of an opening — I wouldn’t put it further than that — that possibly the courts are not going to class chimpanzees simply as property, but are going to say that they may have some legal right to be free or to be sent to a sanctuary or something of that sort,” he said on an Australian TV program.

“The law recognizes things that are not human beings as persons — corporations are a clear example. So it would mean that they have standing in court to claim those rights.”

Christopher Coulston, the New York assistant attorney general for the case, has warned that a pro-chimp ruling could provide “for the release of other animals … housed at a zoo, in an educational institution, on a farm, or owned as a domesticated pet”

So, should animals have the same rights under the law as humans? If one believes that we evolved from primates, then it is possible that same person would believe that animals should have rights like humans because they are similar, just less evolved. However, if God created all things, then it is important to see what God had to say about the animals and mankind when He created them in order to gain a biblical view of what rights an animal should have versus a human being.

When God created the animals, He spoke them into existence, much as He did with everything that was created before them. He created fish and birds on the fifth day (Gen. 1:20-23) and he gave them the command to “be fruitful and multiply.” On the sixth day God created land animals and gave them the same command. Conversely, when God created man on the sixth day, a few things were different. The Bible says that God created man out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). This is unique. Later, when God pronounces the curse on the man and the woman after the fall, He says, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). Additionally, the Bible says that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). This is accepted by most commentators as the moment in which mankind received a spirit, making human beings different from animals as the only beings to possess a body and a spirit. There is a significant difference in the way that mankind was created compared to how the animals were created.

Next, one sees that God imbued mankind with a special trait that only human beings possess. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Thus, God made mankind in His own image; human beings bear the image of God! No animal can claim this. This gives mankind a special value that animals do not possess. Later, the killing of animals is sanctioned by God (Gen. 4:4; Ac. 10:13), and God condemns the killing of human beings (Gen. 9:6; Ex. 20:13). So it is clear that God sees humans as bearing a greater value than animals.

What, then, is the difference between mankind and animals concerning rights? God gave the man and the woman the same command He gave to the animals: Be fruitful and multiply. However, he gave them another command. He said, “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God entrusted mankind with the management of the animals and the subduing of the earth. Human beings were placed in charge of the animals as God’s representatives to the animals. Animals were not made on the same level as human beings. Instead, animals were made for human beings. The only similarities that animals share with humans, from an ontological perspective, are that they were created by God and given the command to multiply.

It is a good thing to recognize the value of that which God has created. It is another thing entirely to try and give something a worth and value that God has not ascribed to it. God made it clear through His creative design, mankind was the pinnacle of creation and was wholly different from the rest of creation. Mankind is the only created being to be imbued with the image of God. Therefore, mankind has unique rights and privileges not shared by any other created thing. Animals should not be mistreated, abused or neglected. Why? Because they are valuable in the eyes of God simply because he saw fit to create them. However, one should not go so far as to put animals on the same level as humans.

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