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Life Arts

Kudos to Spain

By       Message Suzana Megles     Permalink

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I never thought I would ever write these words - Kudos to Spain. They are on the verge of passing a law which would give the great apes "human" rights as Russell Paul La Valle's article implies. I can't understand how he can call banning harmful experimentation on apes, not allowing their use for circuses, television commericals and films as "human" rights. No, these measures are animal rights which have long been denied them.

But what surprised me most with this wonderful revelation was that apes would be the first recipients of concern in a land where the national "bloodsport" of bull fighting has been the cause of so much shameful exploitation and cruelty to the bulls. Even the horses used by the picadors prior to 1909 suffered. They were sometimes disembowled by the bull's horns during the lancing stage. Later, they were given a protective covering which allowed them to leave the ring unscathed.

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The bull fights remind me so much of the gladitorial combats of the old Roman Empire which were nothing but horrifying and cruel spectacles where people took delight in watching two men engage in bloody, mortal combat. But as far as those matches between humans, I believe them to have been more equal and fair than that of a matador with a bull- trailing blood from the lance used by the picador to penetrate a mound of muscle on his neck. Then later two razor-sharp barbed sticks called banderillas are planted into his flanks causing further loss of blood and weakness --giving, in my opinion, an unfair advantage to the matador.

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Spain sensitive to animals?

I one time read that children were even encouraged to throw darts at young bulls --with darts made no less by nuns. Some of their "religious" festivals involved men on horseback--galloping with knives drawn to see who could lop off the heads of hanging geese.

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Vicky Moore of the UK, a beautiful former model turned animal activist, spent countless hours videotaping cruelty to animals in Spain-- including watching in horror animals being thrown off buildings during "religious" festivals. Sadly, this courageous woman was mauled by a bull at the running of the bulls sometime in the 90's. How ironic that she who was trying to help them, would be impaled by one crazed bull who tossed her around like a rag doll. She would survive after a long stay in the hospital. One day, watching TV I was very happy to catch her being interviewed after being released from the hospital. But her days were numbered and she died later, probably from the lingering effects of that terrible mauling.

Even a bullarum (proclamation) from Pope Pius V in 1567 was not enough to stop the bull fights for good because his successor- Pope Gregory XIII abolished it 8 years later at the request of King Philip II.

So why did the Spanish parliament choose the Apes first? Aside from the fact that they are considered our closest animal relatives, the notion of protecting the apes comes from the recommendations of the Great Ape Project and Peter Singer its co-founder. Of all the countries in the world, I never expected Spain to be in the forefront of such a historic struggle for animal rights and I sincerely applaud them. I hope that nothing will impede this initiative from becoming law in Spain. If it does become law, Spain will be the first country to acknowledge unequivocally the legal rights of non-humans.

La Valle not surprisingly answers the question- should animals have rights - with a no. He explains that a "right" is a moral principle that governs one's freedom of action in Society. As Jan of Catholic Concern for Animals noted - why is he trying to equivocate human and animal rights? What does his moral "principle" have to do with treating animals with care and compassion? We're not asking animals to vote or to enter into decision making. We're asking humans to treat them as the living beings they are with basic needs like our own. They need fresh air, water, food, interaction with their own, and the ability to move around and be treated compassionately. Surely these "rights" are not excessive, but sadly in today's CAFOs, slaughterhouses, and research labs and even some zoos and animal shelters these basic rights are ignored and fall far short of compassionate standards.

I've decided that I will never come to terms with La Valle's ideas because they will only end up justifying the status quo which has caused millions and possibly billions of animals to be treated badly for many hundreds of years and often with impunity. To try to protect them from cruelty is for many of us a God-given right and mandate, and if our laws are based on justice, this is one which needs serious addressing and revisioning. A stumbling block in most countries, including our own, is that we have labeled animals as "property." What kind of people classify living, breathing beings as property? I don't see anything moral about this "principle."

Black people were also at one time considered property by a "moral" society. And of course, what we did to them is a damning page of our history. When people speak to me about morals and then try to justify slavery or penning up our farm animals in confined places or using animals for dubious research like making monkeys smoke poisonous cigarettes which we already know are harmful --these are for me examples of immoral behaviour. Sadly, we have in the past and up to the present engaged in skewing "moral" principles to suit our own selfish purposes.

La Valle in one part says that cruelty to animals is of course repugnant and morally indefensible. Perhaps this statement is the only truism he wrote, but then he spoils it and justifies using animals in cruel experimentation. He probably also sees nothing wrong with confining our farm animals to lives of misery in the CAFO system. So, his words of "concern" are meaningless and even hypocritical because he refuses to address the cruelty to animals he says is "repugnant and morally indefensible."

Unless we give animals THEIR rights - as we gave the black man his and women theirs, nothing will change and that indefensible cruelty he speaks of will continue and the animals will continue to suffer and be unfairly and cruelly exploited by man.

Again the "real" La Valle shows his hand by saying near the end of his article -"Yet we should not lose sight of who we are or of our place in the world. Yes, humans have a responsibility as stewards of our domain, but not at our own expense......" The only word that came to my mind as I read that is "supercilious." It's back to man and his needs regardless of how they are met.

I am grateful for having read his comments though. I hadn't spent too much time thinking of this hopefully new landmark law. I am also especially grateful to Peter Singer and the Great Apes Project. I hope that more people will appreciate and support his efforts to bring legal rights to the great apes, gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans. It is a wonderful start which I hope will even go further giving all animals legal rights.


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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)

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