Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Married a Monkey? Hiasl, Rosi and the "Chimp-ions" of Fate

They say, in many ways, Hiasl (pronounced HEE-zul) is the typical Austrian. He (pictured) likes pastries, enjoys painting, and mellows out in front of the television. However, there is (at least to me) one notable difference between Hiasl and the average Viennese citizen; Hiasl is a chimpanzee. But if animal-rights lawyers have their way, that distinction soon may change ...

Yes, friends, you heard that right. In a case that, sadly, could have global implications, Hiasl's advocates are seeking to get the 26-year-old male chimp legally declared a "person." "Our main argument is that Hiasl is a person and has basic legal rights," says Eberhart Theuer, Hiasl's lawyer and a member of the Association Against Animal Factories." If we can get Hiasl declared a person, he would have the right to own property ..."

Say what? Okay, okay before I go too much further, I will say I have sympathy for the chimp's basic story; captured as an infant and smuggled illegally to Austria in a crate for pharmaceutical experiments, customs officials seized Hiasl and (companion chimp) Rosi and brought them to an animal sanctuary, where they lived happily for the past twenty-five years. But now the shelter is bankrupt and is about to close. Paula Stibbe, a Briton who teaches English in Vienna, has taken a liking to Hiasl and is willing to become his legal guardian. But between food and vet bills, Hiasl costs $6,800 a month to raise (way more than an English teacher makes!) and she would need donations to accomplish the task. Friends of the chimp are willing to pitch in the cash, but in Vienna there's a catch; under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal donations. Thus the rush to "personhood"—if Hiasl isn't declared human soon, he could end up homeless ...

Once again I must take a brief detour. My second job often has me driving down St. Charles Road early Saturday morning usually in time to see the homeless people (who must leave the overnight shelter by 7 a.m.) walking down the street, bundled and carrying all their earthly belongings on their backs. It would be kind of sad to see Hiasl and Rosi in that line ... and yet kind of funny too ...

The reason for my (and hopefully your) mixed reaction is that, while these animal-rights people are quite serious, the story in itself, to any sane person, is quite silly. Put aside from the question of whether $6,800 is best spent supporting one monkey or ten (real) humans; pets are precious, and my being the owner of a dog, three cats and a turtle, I realize that putting a price tag on them is tricky. But surely it would be more logical to change the donation law to include chimpanzees, than to change the definition of human beings to include monkeys. Unfortunately this culture-of-death world is no longer very logical; not only is Theuer threatening to take this case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, but Spain's parliament is currently considering a similar apes-human rights bill as well.

So there you have it; we all too soon may live in a world where monkeys are considered human but human beings such as unborn babies and ailing old folk are not. And, if the chimp wins his appeal, as a "person," there seems little to prevent Ms. Paula Stibbe from marrying Hiasl—if she were so inclined. But if we were to take this sci-fi scenario one step further, would their unborn baby be legally protected, or would Paula be allowed to abort ... without Hiasl's consent?

On second thought, Hiasl and Rosi, maybe that overnight shelter is not such a bad option after all. At least you could get out while the gettin's still good ...

3 comments :

Pristinus Sapienter said...

I vote to give the - uh - 'guy' Hiasl a slot in our species if he will vow to run for US Senator from New York, or Illinois - or, maybe, Attorney General of Illinois.

Rosi may be too smart for either job.

JimAroo said...

The hard core Animal Rights Fanatics (not the sweet old ladies who foolishly donate to Peta) dont care about about raising the status of animals but lowering the status of humans. That is why they are all pro abort and pro euthanasia.... after all we put Fido to sleep dont we? Why not Grandma?

Check out the #1 animal rights philosopher in the world, Dr. Peter Singer at Princeton. He beleives animals should have the same rights as humans AND that legalized abortion should extend for nine months AFTER birth.

He is a hero to secular humanists.
My heroes are Mary and John Bosco and Father Damien of Molokai. By their heroes shall you know them.

Pristinus Sapienter said...

Uh, Jim?

Can you see how you (and our multiply-fittingly-monikered Fighting Irish Tom) are a hero in your ways among us who come in contact with you?

For, heroes come from their love of their heroes.