Monkeys are closely related to humans.

Isn't that why they're also entitled to basic rights?

The citizens of the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt will vote on this this Sunday.

The popular initiative "Basic rights for primates" launched by the think tank and animal rights movement Sentience Politics is intended to supplement the canton's constitution with an article for "the right of non-human primates to life and to physical and mental integrity".

As a result, monkey species such as chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, lemurs and monkeys, which, like humans, belong to the group of primates, would no longer be treated as things but as sentient individuals.

John Knight

Correspondent for politics and economy in Switzerland.

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The initiators have gained a prominent supporter for this venture, which is unique in the world: the British behavioral researcher Jane Goodall.

Chimpanzees and other primates are sentient and intelligent creatures, she explains.

"You deserve our respect."

The initiators argue that the genome of apes and humans is largely identical.

Non-human primates have brain structures similar to humans and are very intelligent;

they feel pain, sadness and compassion and are even able to plan ahead.

“Because of their similarity to humans, they are considered particularly attractive for biomedical research or are exhibited for observation and entertainment purposes.

If they are no longer profitable or optimal husbandry becomes more complicated, they can be euthanized without major problems.” Such practices can hardly be morally justified, writes the initiative.

The applicable animal protection laws are inadequate.

Should the initiative be successful, the basic rights of the apes would have to be enforced with the help of a special - human - ombudsperson or a representative from the veterinary office.

But the initiative is primarily symbolic.

In the (unlikely) case that voters adopt them, the new rights would only apply to monkeys owned by the public sector.

But Basel has no primates at all.

The city's zoo, which keeps a few dozen monkeys, is privately owned.

For the same reason, the Basel pharmaceutical companies, including giants Roche and Novartis, would also not be affected by the initiative.

Of course, they no longer use monkeys for experiments in the city area.

The majority of people's representatives in the Basel parliament reject the initiative.

The director of the local zoo, Olivier Pagan, is also against it.

He warns against shifting expertise in monkey welfare away from biologists and zookeepers to non-experts.

The Association of Swiss Zoological Gardens, on the other hand, considers the initiative impractical.

It is a fallacy that the monkeys will be better off after accepting the initiative.

The association is also bothered by the preferential treatment of monkeys over other animals: "It is incomprehensible why a monkey should get human rights, but ultimately a dog or a cat is excluded from them."

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