Argentine Orangutan Receives Basic Human Rights

An Argentine orangutan named Sandra has been awarded basic human rights by a high-level court in that South American country.


(Sandra the orangutan)

In Argentina, at least, Sandra now has the right to life, liberty and freedom from harm. “The ruling was historic because before a nonhuman primate like Sandra was considered an object and therefore there was no dispute about its captivity, says Andrés Gil Dominguez of the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights in Argentina, which filed a habeas corpus petition for Sandra, asserting that she had been unjustifably denied her freedom.”

The court’s decision will lead to another proceeding on the orangutan’s behalf to find a home outside the zoo’s cages where Sandra, born in captivity in Germany in 1986, has lived for the last 20 years. The Argentine justice system will now convene a committee of experts to find a sanctuary or another home for Sandra, as long as the aging orang is healthy enough to travel elsewhere.

Science fiction fans are irresistibly reminded of the wonderful 1962 novel Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. Although written as a juvenile, this novel has a grown-up preoccupation with the basic question "What makes us human?"

In the story, a distant planet is colonized under a charter to a large corporation. However, one of the conditions of the charter is that the planet does not have any sapient, human-like intelligent life.

The corporate lawyers are not very happy when a sol stone miner named Jack Holloway finds an odd little creature in his house, and then sees him using tools.

The question arose: if the Fuzzies were sapient, then they should have the rights of sapient beings throughout the Federation, and their planet belonged to them.


(Little Fuzzy cover art)

"...As soon as Kellogg told them what we'd found, Mallin turned fish-belly white and wanted to know how we were going to suppress it. I asked him if he was nuts, and then Kellogg came out with it. They wouldn't dare let the Fuzzies be proven sapient."

"Because the Company wants to sell Fuzzy furs?"

Van Riebeck looked at him in surprise. "I never thought of that. I doubt if they did, either. No. Because if the Fuzzies are sapient beings, the Company's charter is automatically void."

i'e also add that Clifford Simak wrote about this in his 1942 story Ogre; see this very early discussion of relations with extraterrestrial life.

Via Scientific American.

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