Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The provincial park where I went camping this weekend had a sign in its office asking campers (largely those under the age of 5 or those with handwriting similar to a 5-year-old) to report any sightings of a certain sort of turtle. The park explained that there was an interest in tracking the numbers and, likely, the movements of these turtles. Discussing it later with my friends, I jokingly blasted the idea as a gross violation of the privacy and civil rights of turtles, consistent with the interpretation of section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would certainly not be acceptable for the park to ask visitors to report any sightings of blacks or Muslims, but turtles and various other animals do not enjoy this right. With the exception of rights exclusive to citizens of Canada or permanent citizens, there is nothing in the Charter which states explicitly that the Charter applies solely to human beings.

I then came home to find that Spain is on the verge of granting limited human rights to our fellow great apes. When the bill passes, "it would become illegal in Spain to kill apes except in self-defense. Torture, including in medical experiments, and arbitrary imprisonment, including for circuses or films, would be forbidden." The law would be the first victory for the Great Ape Project spearheaded by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer and an Italian philosopher named Paola Cavalieri, which advocates for the extension of human rights to great apes on the basis of our shared humanity. Though Singer and Cavalieri demand the release of any apes in captivity, Spain's 300 apes in zoos will remain there.

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