In 1991, the Pulitzer prize-winning ecologist Jared Diamond called humans "the third chimpanzee", setting us alongside the common chimp (Pan troglodytes) and its less aggressive but astoundingly promiscuous cousin, the bonobo (Pan paniscus). By 1999 confusion over the biological status of chimpanzees prompted scientists in New Zealand to join forces with lawyers to petition the country's government to pass a bill conferring "rights" on chimpanzees and other primates. The move drew derision. Roger Scruton, the moral philosopher, asked: "Do we really think that the jails of New Zealand should henceforth be filled with malicious chimpanzees? If not, by what right are they to be exempted from punishment?" New Zealand granted great apes legal protection from animal experimentation. British Home Office guidelines also forbid experiments on chimps, gorillas and orang-utans.I wonder if chimps will be eligble to join PETA.
In 2003, researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit again ignited the debate when they found that 99.4% of the most critical DNA sites are identical in human and chimp genes, prompting the lead researcher, Morris Goodman, to declare that chimps and humans should be brought together under the same umbrella genus, Homo.
Tags: chimps, species-ism, DNA