AVFF Day 5

The city of Buenos Aires has been summoned to court to respond to accusations of abusing someone’s rights. On Argentina’s other side, another city – Mendoza – also seems to overlook the fact that every person has the rights to freedom, a life free from torture, mistreatment or isolated captivity. This is because not every person is human – such is the case made on behalf of Sandra the orangutan and Cecilia the chimpanzee.

It would not be the first time that legal definitions of rights have been amended, argue the revolutionary lawyers. In the not so distant past, debates raged over womens’ rights to vote and own property, and whether visible minorities such as Native Americans were human or had souls. Those debates are now past controversy. Says one campaigner: “We are evolutionists and we will not stop until the last cage is empty.”

Held for decades in inadequate conditions in zoos, mammals such as the great apes, bears and many more show apathy and depression. Many are ill and overweight, and held in isolation, where the only social behaviour they exhibit is asking for food. Apes who are accustomed to trees as an essential part of their natural environment are kept in cages with artificial poles for fear that a real tree would be used to escape.

For Proyecto Gran Simio (Great Ape Project), expanding the legal definition of personhood is a means of providing dignified lives to great apes such as Sandra and Cecilia who, unable to return to their natural habitat, would be happier in spacious wildlife sanctuaries designed by animal welfare experts rather than businessmen. But animals should not be bred in zoos to begin with, and the activists aim to preserve the natural habitats of great apes from destruction – which would naturally have consequences for the legal rights of aboriginal peoples on their land, so often pillaged and encroached upon.

Will human unity remain restricted to Homo Sapiens, or can dignity and freedom be extended to nonhuman animals? This is the question posed by Persona (no) Humana.