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Spain to grant some human rights to apes

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REUTERS/Susana Vera/FILE

(Read caption) An ape, probably a chimpanzee, looks out from a cage at a sanctuary outside Madrid.

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Spain's parliament approved a measure Wednesday to extend some human rights to gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans, becoming the first country to explicitly acknowledge the legal rights of nonhumans.

The parliament's environmental committee approved a resolution that commits the country to the Declaration on Great Apes, which states that nonhuman apes are entitled to the rights of life, liberty, and protection from torture.

The declaration, developed in 1993 by a group of primatologists, ethicists, and psychologists known as the Great Ape Project, demands "the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes." According to the declaration, apes may not be killed except under "strictly defined circumstances," such as self-defense. They may not be imprisoned without due legal process, and they may not be subjected to the "deliberate infliction of severe pain," even if doing so is said to benefit others.

Reuters reports that the resolution is expected to become law, and will likely take effect within one year. The news agency spells out what this means for Spain's population of nonhuman apes.

Keeping apes for circuses, television commercials or filming will also be forbidden and breaking the new laws will become an offence under Spain's penal code.
Keeping an estimated 315 apes in Spanish zoos will not be illegal, but supporters of the bill say conditions will need to improve drastically in 70 percent of establishments to comply with the new law.
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