Hominid Rights

It was not that long ago that the divide between Human and Animals was considered a vast and fundamental one.  Even science maintained an almost religious separation, where our mighty self awareness was separated from the fleshy automatons that were animals.  Above are the gods, below the animals, and between the tragic humans,  with the self determination of the gods but with mortal bodies like the animals.

The last 30 years have smudged these comfortable divides and we are increasingly realizing that the separation between us and animals is a lot smaller than we once thought, about 1.6% small.   There is an increasing weight of evidence that suggests the massive changes that have occurred because of human intelligence are dependent on a few very small, but obviously critical, aspects of our genetics selfs.  Namely, our upright position, our hands, and our ability to make complex noises and thus speak.

Much of what we used to think was exclusively human is also definitely shared by our close genetics cousins, the chimps, gorillas, orangoutangs, and probably by other more distant relations, parrots, dolphins, whales.    There is a compelling argument that if we can endow our selves with inalienable rights against torture, freedom from ownership, etc. Then surely at least some of these rights should be extended to those animals that illustrate qualities that we share such as intelligence and self awareness.

Strangely enough this movement was first supported by sovereign legislation by the NZ government in 1999. ” All members of the Homindae Family (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) share complex cognitive aptitudes not shared by most other animals. Yet only human hominids have legal rights to life and personal security. The campaign to win fundamental rights for all hominids took a small but significant step forward in 1999 when New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act banned the use of non-human hominids in research, testing, and teaching except where such uses are in the hominids’ best interests.”

A Step at a Time: New Zealand’s Progress Towards Hominid Rights

Its one of those great moments in politics where a brave and pioneering bit of legislation was passed that was never going to affect anything because NZ doesn’t do scientific tests on hominids anyway.  However it does set a good legal precedent, and its one I can’t see any reason not to support.  One only has to visit the chimps at a Zoo and reflect on this sentence below by Jared Diamond in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee to know that something just ain’t right.

“The first chimp that I saw being used for medical research had been injected with a slow-acting lethal virus and was being kept alone, for several years until it died, in small, empty, cage.”

Climate Change Camp NZ

The world waits with collective breath held to see if the upcoming Copenhagen conference can produce anything more than hot air.   To coincide with this epic global event is the first NZ version of the climate change camps that have been run in England for some years.  The British version of the climate camps describes itself

“The Climate Camp is a place for anyone who wants to take action on climate change; for anyone who’s fed up with empty government rhetoric and corporate spin; for anyone who’s worried that the small steps they’re taking aren’t enough to match the scale of the problem; and for anyone who’s worried about our future and wants to do something about it.

I’ve been wondering in the past few years why humanity was so will to make significant sacrifices in the 20th Century for causes such as gender equality, ending apartheid, anti-nuclear campaigns, gay rights to name a few, yet when we face what is arguably the most significant and likely threat to our survival on the planet as it is today we are timid, unsure and uncommitted.   As the younger generation we have some cause to be angry with the powers that have been ignoring  climate science for 3o or years,  but if we don’t take action now to alter our cause then we are equally responsible for the damaging centuries to come.   We can complain about the short-sightness of politicians all we want, we can be dismayed at the mis direction of economists, and we can be angry with the baby boomers for blowing the greatest generation of wealth we may ever know, but if we don’t take take responsibility to act when the time is called for then we are merely a silent part of the problem.

So when grass roots events like the NZ Climate Camp come along it is a great chance to educate ourselves and direct our actions positively.  Have a look at the nice website, and contact them if you have anything to offer.

Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa


A thought

NZ Politics.  I can’t help but be amazed by how badly the reconfiguration of Aucklands Council system is being managed.  Ultimately it is probably a good idea, but the speed and manner in which Hide and Key are facillitating this process is terrible and abusive of their power.   I just don’t understand why Key is letting such bad publicity affect his government so early.  My prediction number one is that he has done a deal with Hide to let them have their way with Auckland if they shut up about Climate Change and let National return to some middle ground on this.  Notably Hide and the other Act MPs have stopped going to the select committee meetings about the current climate change review.

I am also really suprised with how quiet and obidient the Maori Party is being about the removal of Maori Representation from the new Greater Auckland Council.  I can only think that they too have been promised something big to keep them quiet and this would have to be the repeal of the Seabed and Foreshore Legislation.  This would be classic Key, he gets to make seemingly pro-environmental and pr0-maori gestures which in reality are weak and don’t change the reality of the alternative agenda they are quietly running behind the scenes.

McCully must go.

I’m really quite angry about this this.  I tend to try and reserve judgment of people with different ideologies until the real application can be tested and understood.   But recent announcements by Murray McCully about changes to NZ aid programme are a terrible idea from start to finish.   Aid and development are vast and burgeoning fields of knowledge.   With increased urbanization, increased population, and increasing numbers of man-made and natural distasters aid and development may well become some of the most important methods of allocating resources around the world.  In the best case this will be done in a sane and orderly manner that promotes long term peace and sustainability.

It is however a very difficult area.  It is young, under resourced and by its nature deals with disastorious situations.  NZ has previously maintained the noble goal of ensuring that our small contribution to the world of Aid is delivered effeciently and with the primary goal of poverty reduction.  Basically this means the money goes to simple things like providing clean water, safe accommodation, food. You know, all that stuff we completely take for granted.  This strategy has been widely praised and is inline with international best standards such as Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness that was signed in 2005. NZ has avoided much of the criticism and international scepticism that comes with aid from countries like the US and Australia who tie their Aid to their commercial and strategic interests.

New Zealand will now join those countries and make our AID programme responsive to our trade and political interests.  So first up we see NZ aid money been diverted to subsidizing flights to the pacific.  This is a fine idea and its great to be promoting NZ obligations to the pacific.  But lets be clear, this is money that would otherwise be helping people in the pacific deal with day to day issues of poverty.  Things like Maleria vaccinations, water pumps, grain, seeds…

Here’s two indepth articles recently published about this:

Josie Pagani:  If it’s not helping to reduce global poverty it doesn’t count as aid. 

Gordon Campbell: Murray McCully’s attack on New Zealand’s foreign aid programme