August 22, 2002


Jerry was a man - are they? (Ross Mackenzie, 8/21/02,
The headline arrested the eye: "Is a Chimp a 'Person' With a Legal Right to a Lawyer in Court?" And the mind went immediately to Robert Heinlein's 1947 short story, "Jerry Was a Man." [..]

The world's richest woman learns that trusted chimpanzees in a made-to-order animal factory are treated as slaves, and once past their usefulness on the production line are ground into dog food. She adopts an aging chimp named Jerry, and on his behalf files suit to establish his "humanity."

The grounds? Primarily, that he can make literal and moral judgments, long deemed the separator between men and beasts. Given Jerry's demonstrated ability to distinguish between right and wrong, the court judges Jerry to be a man - thereby saving him from the grinder.

In the real world, Heinlein's science-fiction queries apply with even greater force.

Do traditional man-beast distinctions still apply? What is an animal and what is a man? What are our humanity-related obligations to animals? Do chimps have rights - and if so, what sort?

Jerry was a man. Are chimps?

Once you determine that a human fetus isn't entitled to be considered a human being and doesn't deserve human rights--contrary to thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching that human dignity derives from our being created in God's image--then questions like this become fair game. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2002 8:45 AM
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