Should Apes Have Rights?

The Spanish Parliament recently granted great apes (including chimps, gorillas, and orangutans) the right to "life and freedom." This law (or resolution) was passed in part because of successful lobbying by Peter Singer's Great Ape Project, which has been fighting to get more rights for apes around the world.

In the sense that this prevents experimentation that would likely injure or kill apes, this is probably a very good thing. Apes are almost genetically identical to humans, and there is a lot of evidence that apes' emotional experiences are very similar to humans'.

However, the law also bans using apes in circuses, television commercials or filming. Based on that, I assume that the law essentially bans "slave labor" of apes, and that the ban on "ape slavery" would fall under the right to "freedom." My only problem with this is that, when apes are outside their natural habitat (e.g.., Spain), they have no capability to exist without human care. Apes cannot just walk around Madrid and rent an apartment and be expected to follow human laws and regulations, much less provide financially for themselves and their little ape families. If humans cannot be repaid for taking care of the apes by trying to use them for entertainment purposes, there will be no incentive for them to import apes to Spain at all. Therefore, the ban, when taken to its logical conclusion, is a ban on apes in Spain.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm sure the apes would rather be somewhere else, anyway. The only problem is that if the apes aren't in Spain, they won't be able to take advantage of their newly-won right to life, either. Therefore, the law might actually end up causing more harm to apes, who will probably be transported to other locales that do not afford apes any rights at all. At least they would have to go to such locales if they wanted to get into acting.

A better law would be to allow these apes their right to life, but not to freedom -- perhaps the right could be fashioned as a right to "compensation" where the apes may be forced to work, but must be provided for and treated in such a way that is similar to child actors, including limitation on work hours, trust funds for the proceeds, etc. That way, Spain could become an ape-haven, and perhaps still retain some incentive for people to import apes. The way it stands, I think apes will lose out.

P.S. I heard that skinny girls were banned from modeling in Spain, too, so maybe one of the American television networks should take advantage and make a sitcom involving a Spanish modeling agency run by wild and crazy orangutans. Spain's loss would be our gain.