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Rights for chimps

London, June 10: Spain could soon become the first country in the world to give chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and other great apes some of the fundamental rights granted to human beings under a law being proposed by members of the ruling socialist coalition.

The law would eliminate the concept of “ownership” for great apes, instead placing them under the “moral guardianship” of the state, much as is the case for children in care, the severely handicapped and those in comas, said the MP behind the project, Francisco Garrido.

As a first step, Garrido will propose a resolution on the rights of great apes before the parliament’s environment committee at the end of this month.

Great apes held in zoos would be moved to state-built sanctuaries, unless there was a risk that it would harm their emotional welfare, he said.

The law would also make it a crime to mistreat or kill a great ape, except in self-defence or medical euthanasia.

The Roman Catholic Church has expressed concern. Archbishop of Pamplona and Tudela Fernando Sebastian said only a “ridiculous or distorted society” could propose such a law. “We don’t give rights to some people such as unborn children, human embryos, and we are going to give them to apes.”

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