Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI comments on Austrian case to grant chimp personhood

Posted: 4 April 2007


As judges in Austria face a decision over whether a chimpanzee named Hiasl deserves a legal guardian and should be granted human rights as an ape, Animal Defenders international (ADI) supports experts in the case who argue for him being given ‘personhood’.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, commented: “The case which opened on the 20th February 2007 will have considerable implications if Hiasl is granted a legal guardian. It will be the first time the species barrier will have been crossed for legal ‘personhood’. Hiasl’s case shows that we as humans need to evaluate the relationship we have with the other primates and recognise that our exploitation and mistreatment of them cannot be justified.”

ADI’s ‘My Mate’s A Primate’ report was the first campaign of its kind to highlight how close chimpanzees are to humans with personalities and the ability to express emotions such as happiness, compassion, sadness, affection and anger. Their intelligence is borne out by the fact that they have been taught to communicate in human sign language.

Expert statements from primatologists and professors of law in the case argue that chimps can biologically be considered as humans, that they fulfil the necessary conditions for personhood and therefore in the eyes of the law should be considered a person deserving a legal guardian to safeguard their interests.

There is evidence of growing support for apes to be granted rights with the Balearic Parliament having already endorsed the idea and Spain promoting a similar parliamentary initiative to grant rights to great apes on the basis of their intelligence and emotional closeness to humans. New Zealand granted rights to apes in 1999, and the UK government banned experiments on Great Apes in 1997.

Spanish MPs are being urged to back a similar principle, held dear by the international organisation The Great Ape Project - that apes be granted the right to life, freedom and protection from torture.

The European Parliament will be considering a ban on the use of primates, especially, Great Apes, this year. ADI has sponsored a Written Declaration to be launched on World Laboratory Animals Day (24 April), calling for a ban on the use of primates in experiments in the EU.

This follows over 233 signatories to the Berlin Declaration, which in 2005 called for an end to the use of primates in research. 25 leading animal welfare groups had gathered in Berlin for the Congress on Alternatives to animals in research.

Background to chimp Hiasl case
A British woman, Paula Stibbe, has applied to become the legal guardian of 26-year-old chimpanzee Hiasl.

In 1982, baby Hiasl was snatched from the wild in Sierra Leone, West Africa and illegally taken to Vienna, destined for AIDS and hepatitis research at a lab belonging to Immuno. However Hiasl and seven other chimps were seized by customs. He was then raised in a human family until he was 10 years old and later placed in a sanctuary which is now bankrupt. So he may end up in the vivisection laboratory after all.

Dr. Martin Balluch, of Austrian animal rights group VGT (Verein Gegen Tierfabriken),who has worked to bring the case, is now demanding a legal guardian for Hiasl who remains at the sanctuary with a female chimp from the original 1982 shipment. Dr. Balluch told ADI that although the judge has up to six months to reach a decision, he expects a decision to be made within the next few weeks.

Please click here for more information on the Berlin Declaration

Unprecedented number of MEPs back call to end experiments on monkeys and apes across Europe
New Written Declaration, on primates in scientific experiments, sponsored by ADI: “Having regard to Rule 116 of European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, whereas more than 80% of respondents to the 2006 Commission’s public consultation on animals in experiments considered the use of primates in experiments as not acceptable; whereas more than 10,000 primates are used in experiments every year in EU laboratories; noting that almost all primate species share more than 90% of their DNA with humans and it is acknowledged that the primate species have a capacity to suffer greatly in captivity; whereas 26% of primate species are in danger of extinction and wild-caught primates continue to be used in laboratories - in addition it may be difficult to protect primates from threats such as human consumption if it is perceived that these species are used freely by Western academic institutions; whereas advanced technology and techniques now provide alternative methods that are proving to be more efficient and reliable than primate experiments, such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), microdosing, computer modelling or tissue and cell culture; noting that despite genetic similarities, there are important differences between humans and other primates and primate experiments cannot match the precision of human-based study, ADI urges the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to use the revision process of Directive 86/609/EC as an opportunity to: i.) Make ending the use of apes and wild caught monkeys in scientific experiments an urgent priority; ii.) Establish a timetable for replacing the use of all primates in scientific experiments with alternatives;

Berlin Declaration:
In 2005, with 25 other groups, ADI signed up to a declaration calling for an end to the use of primates in research. The groups had gathered in Berlin for a congress on alternatives to animals in research. After the Congress, ADI called on other organizations and individuals worldwide to sign up to what is now called The Berlin Declaration – 184 groups have now signed. The Declaration states: “Animal protection organisations and scientists have united to call for an end to the use of non-human primates in biomedical research and testing. We urge governments, regulators, industry, scientists and research funders worldwide to accept the need to end primate use as a legitimate and essential goal; to make achieving this goal a high priority; and work together to facilitate this. In particular, we believe there must be an immediate, internationally co-ordinated effort to bring all non-human primate experiments to an end”.

Animal Defenders International (ADI)
With offices in London and San Francisco, Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, lobbying to protect animals on issues such as animals in entertainment and their use in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI’s evidence of the torment to animals has led to campaigns and legislative action all over the world to protect them. ADI opposes violence or intimidation whether directed at humans or other animals.

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