The Great Ape Project (GAP), founded in 1993, is an international organization of primatologists, psychologists, ethicists, and other experts who advocate a United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Great Apes that would confer basic legal rights on non-human great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. The rights suggested are the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture. (See Declaration on Great Apes.)
The organization also monitors individual great ape activity in the United States through a census program. Once rights are established, GAP would demand the release of great apes from captivity; currently 3,100 are held in the U.S., including 1,280 in biomedical research.
The book of the same name, edited by philosophers Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer, features contributions from thirty-four authors, including Jane Goodall and Richard Dawkins, who have submitted articles voicing their support for the project. The authors write that human beings are intelligent animals with a varied social, emotional, and cognitive life. If great apes also display such attributes, the authors argue, they deserve the same consideration humans extend to members of their own species.
The book highlights findings that support the capacity of great apes to possess rationality and self-consciousness, and the ability to be aware of themselves as distinct entities with a past and future. Documented conversations (via sign-language) with individual great apes are the basis for these findings. Other subjects addressed within the book include the division placed between humans and great apes, great apes as persons, progress in gaining rights for the severely mentally retarded (once an overlooked minority), and the situation of great apes in the world today.
From a biological point of view, Dr. Pedro A. Ynterian from the International GAP Project wrote "Between the two of us we could even have a 0.5% difference in our DNA. The difference between a Chimpanzee and us is only 1.23%. Human blood and Chimpanzee blood, with compatible blood groups, can be exchanged through transfusion. Neither our nor the chimps blood can be exchanged with any other species. We are closer genetically to a chimp than a mouse is to a rat."
- The Great Ape Project. Accessed May 22, 2006.
- The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond humanity. 1993. Editors, Peter Singer and P. Cavalieri., Fourth Estate publishing, London, England. Pp. 312.
- Peter Singer. 1993. Practical Ethics. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. Pp.395.
- Peter Singer. 2002. Animal Liberation. HarperCollins, New York, U.S.A. Pp.324.
- John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women. Accessed October 5, 2005.
- de:Great Ape Project
- es:Proyecto Gran Simio
- it:Progetto Grandi Scimmie Antropomorfe
- pt:Projeto dos Grandes Primatas
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