A call for a more equitable treatment of apes, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans features the passionate words of thirty-four world-renowned figures, including Jane Goodall, Douglas Adams, Jared Diamond, and Francine Patterson
Who are the Great Apes? They are chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, and, according to co-editors Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer, and a distinguished group of international contributors, they are persons. Yes, persons, capable of reflections, emotions, joy, as well as, all too often, pain. On the other hand, as one of this book's contributors, Richard Dawkins, has written, while we admit that we are like apes, "we seldom realize that we are apes."With such assertions throughout, it is no wonder that The Great Ape Project has been embroiled in controversy even before its American publication. Beginning with the "Declaration on Great Apes," a scientific and moral call to arms modeled after the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, The Great Ape Project, both as a book and as a political manifesto, unequivocally states its primary goals: to ensure "The Right to Life," "The Protection of Individual Liberty," and "The Prohibition of Torture" to every nonhuman great ape.In fact, The Great Ape Project looks forward to a new stage in the development of the community of equals, whereby chimpanzees, gorillas, and orang-utans will actually receive many of the same protections and rights that are already accorded, although so often abrogated, to man. Thirty-four authors from nine different countries each write from the perspective of his or her own experience about the great apes. The authors include celebrated observers of free-living apes: Jane Goodall, Adriaan Kortlandt, and Toshisada Nishida (and a more unusual observer of our galaxy, Douglas Adams). Other scientists describe extraordinary conversations with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orang-utans, which have been carried out in sign language over dozens of years. Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, and Jared Diamond, author of The Third Chimpanzee, explain how closely related we are to the other apes, while anthropologists and a biologist question the divide we place between ourselves and the other great apes.Taken together, the contributions make a uniquely satisfying whole, blending observation and interpretation in a highly persuasive case for a complete reassessment of the moral status of our closest kin. The Great Ape Project is a book whose impassioned convictions will summon up the spectre of the Scopes Monkey Trial and will, once again, alter our own self-image as human beings.