» Tagged as: humans , Tagged as: non-humans , Tagged as: persons , Tagged as: non-persons , Tagged as: animal rights
"The Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) said it is delighted with last week's ruling by an Argentinian court which granted the intelligent apes the status of "non-human persons", rather than a thing or object." (Independent. Ireland. 28-12-2014)
This is said to be a landmark ruling by those trying to get orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and apes released from captivity in zoos and laboratories. But it raises the question about the other animals used as exhibits and for experiments all over the world. There are also multinational drug barons who use poor innocent babies and even adults as guinea pigs to test their new drugs, under the fancy name of 'clinical trials'. These poor innocent people and their children are not informed or given correct information and the risks involved, and sometimes even their consent is not obtained. To them, these children are probably non-persons, but still human, because clinical trials have to be carried out on human guinea-pigs.
The Oxford dictionary defines a person as "a human being regarded as an individual". In legal context he is an unspecified individual. We use the term "he" for such a person, and "it" for a non-person. We also use "it" for any non-living object. Yet the same Oxford says 'he" refers to "a person or animal". Then if we accept the Oxford dictionary as our bible for the English language, we should use "he or she" for all animals, while also informing us that "it" is used for "an animal or child of unspecified sex". By the same argument, if a child of unspecified sex could be called "it", then we should be able to use it even for adult humans, so that we need not confuse ourselves, as we use the term "he" for both males and females.
In literature we also have a term called "character", which is defined as "any person, animal or figure represented in a literary work". We also have the word "human" derived from Latin "humanus", and also gives us the word "humane" to mean "showing compassion or benevolence". The contradictions continue with the Oxford citing and example "humane method of killing". Killing of any creature, human or animal, person or non-person, cannot ever be humane, for any reason. Today on print and electronic media and literature, what we see, hear, read, and learn about human behaviour make us doubt if we too are non-persons or non-human persons now.
Recently, at a discussion, with Prof. J. B. Disanayaka one of the participants, perhaps to show off his knowledge of Sinhala, brought up the Sinhala term for a female elephant (Aliya). The professor rightly responded, by asking what was so important or relevant to know the name for a female elephant. Some issues are only contextually important.
A person or non-person, by whatever name, who can molest, torture, kill a member of his own species, who can over-eat and destroy excess food while making millions of children, women and men starve to death, who can add poison to the water, air and food, who can torture and kill and eat the flesh of another living creature, who can violate Mother Earth and destroy nature, does not deserve the label 'human'.
A person or non-person who considers himself as a writer or a film director who describes in detail, all of the above crimes, and makes money by selling such trash in the name of literature, could not be considered as a human being either.
Either we have to declassify all Homo sapiens as persons, or include all animals as persons, and give them equal rights as for Homo sapiens. Then we will have to shut down all zoological prisons around the world, where we keep innocent animals under sentence of life-imprisonment, in order to entertain creatures calling themselves humans. We have to stop the use of animals in laboratories for experiments which only help the cosmetic and drug industries to earn filthy lucre. We have to respect the right of all life, to their own homelands, their habitats, and stop destroying them in the name of development and progress. We have to give back to plants and animals their own habitat, and pull out from the forests and the mountains and deserts that we have destroyed and occupied.
We should move away from anthropocentrism, the blind belief that human beings are the most developed, evolved, intelligent life on earth. We should move away from ethnocentrism, the blind belief in the inherent superiority of our own ethnic group or culture. We should stop behaving like vulgar dictators who believe that they own and control everything in the lands they rule, and believe that they can use, abuse, exploit and destroy everything.
It is the duty and the responsibility of all writers, artists, and journalists to use all their creative talents to restore humanity back to being human, to make them humane once again. Let us begin with our children. Let us show them the value and sacredness of all life from an ant to an elephant, from a blade of grass to a millennium old banyan tree. Let us show them that other animals too feel pain, that they too feel hunger and they too love to be with their own and enjoy their freedom. As these children grow up, they will not be concerned about persons and non-persons, or non-humans. They will show their love and concern towards all life, as they love their own.
Every word we write, every stroke of the brush, every beat of music, every pixel of an image should show us humane loving kindness towards all life. on Mother Earth. All life is sacred, everything Mother Earth has provided us, water, air, plants and minerals are all sacred, because they nourish our lives. That is why ancient people worshiped Mother Earth.