Answer by Diane Eager

The pressure for animals to be granted human rights is based totally on the evolutionary belief that animals and humans are just one continuum on an evolutionary tree of life, and there is nothing intrinsically special about being human.

Those who want to give human rights to apes on the basis of proximity on the evolutionary tree need to be challenged as to where they would draw the line between which animals should have rights and which should not.  If all living creatures are part of one large evolutionary tree then anywhere you draw the line is purely arbitrary.  If you try to base it on a creatures problem solving and communication abilities, then you have to also consider dogs, birds, elephants, dolphins, octopuses and even slime moulds.  After all, if evolution has been going on for millions of years, then any living thing that is on earth today is just as much evolved as human beings.  If you are having trouble seeing the implications of this, consider that in 2008 the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland adopted the legal principle that plants have dignity.  See Nature, vol. 452, p919, 24 April 2008 and our report “IgNobel Award for Plant Dignity here.

The real issue is that animals cannot have human rights, because animals are not human, and humans are not animals.  The Bible is clear that humans are separate creations from animals, and are therefore in a class of their own.  Therefore, there is nothing wrong with having separate rules for humans and animals, as long as you realise that the rules must be the ones given by the Creator. Not even man has the right to arbitrarily declare something ‘a right’ when God says it’s ‘a wrong!’  Homosexual rights are a classic example of this discordance.

So any human rights must begin with the most unique characteristic of human beings: they are made in the image of God.  In fact, this is the first thing we are told about human beings.  (Genesis 1:26-27)  This is not said about any other created being.  Therefore, human behaviour, including rights and responsibilities, is determined by our relationship to God.

The creation of the first man and woman also makes it clear that humans are not made from any pre-existing creature.  Adam was made from the “dust of the ground”, i.e. raw materials, and Eve was created from tissue taken from Adam.  Therefore, there has never been any biological connection between humans and animals.

The relationship between man and animals is also defined by God at creation, and it sets human beings apart from the animals.  God said that human beings were to “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  See Genesis 1:26-28.  This does not give humans the right to be cruel to animals, but it does mean humans have authority over animals, and can use them in accordance with God’s laws.

For more information see our reports “Adopt an Ape” here and “No Human Rights for Chimp” here.

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