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on 28 February 1999
This book has been around for about 6 years but has gained renewed interest recently with news of a serious attempt in New Zealand to give our closest relatives equal rights. The book contains a series of essays arguing that the great apes should now be given greater protection and respect. Covering subjects as diverse as the ability of apes to learn and communicate through sign language to apes self perception and intelligence. The book then expands on the scientific studies to examine the philosophical aspects of kinship and possible legal rights. Authors include notable scientists such as Jane Goodall and Richard Dawkins to Gary Francione, professor of law and Steve Sapontzis, professor of philosophy. Whether you agree with animal rights or not, this is a thought provoking book.
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on 21 April 1997
I have to admit, our family's copy of the Great Ape Project sat on the shelf for a few years before I got around to looking at it.I had deep reservations about the book, fearing that it would lead to a reinforcement of anthropocentric criteria for moral standing. However, once I started reading I was hooked. The huge number of contributors with many different viewpoints ranging from rather anthropocentric to radical animal rights make for a lively read. In addition, the book is chockablock full of fascinating information about the great apes--they really are more similar to us than even I, an animal rightist for years, would have thought possible. A challenging book that raises the questions: what does it mean to be human? And how can we justify treating our fellow great apes the way we do?
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on 23 June 2008
This collection of essays is a compelling read. It brings together many of the world's foremost authorities on animal rights and primate behaviour. While the book may seem somewhat daunting at first glance it is, in fact, very readable. It covers many different aspects of the lives of primates and gives a fascinating insight into their behaviour. It is one of the most compelling and convincing arguments for extending some basic 'human' rights to include our humanoid relatives. The book reminds us that these primates are not simply 'animals' to be used as we see fit, but are in actual fact closely related - both evolutionarily and behaviourally - to us. A must read for anyone who is concerned by the state of the world today.
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on 5 December 2010
The Great Ape Project (GAP) is an organization demanding that human rights be extended to the great apes, i.e. chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos. Or, as GAP puts it, the non-human great apes. Most of the people involved in GAP seem to be animal rights activists, whose ultimate goal is to end all human use of (non-human) animals. Somebody might argue that GAP is therefore a clever, tactical move to mainstream the animal liberation movement. Since the great apes are very similar to ourselves, very few, and usually not turned into steak, extending human rights to them might be relatively easy. At the same time, this would presumably call into question *all* species barriers between ourselves and the animal kingdom (the rest of it).

The book "The Great Ape Project. Equality Beyond Humanity" was published in 1993. It contains contributions from luminaries such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Jane Goodall and Colin McGinn. (Frans de Waal is notably absent, however.) Some theologians have been invited as well, including the curious Stephen R.L. Clark whose personal philosophy attempts to combine Plato, Aristotle, nominalism, Darwin and God!

Now, such a collection simply cannot be boring, can it?

Unfortunately, it can...

The contributions are too short to be really interesting, and I suspect many were written during a coffee break in between two college lectures. "Oh, that reminds me. I have to write something for that darn anthology". Publish or perish? Frankly, the book is a major disappointment. It's also unclear who the intended readership is. It's obviously not the general public, or decision-making politicians. Other philosophy professors, perhaps?

Frankly, the book feels monkey-wrenched!

I can therefore only give it two stars. Besides, the gorilla at the cover of the British edition looks better.

But yes, I was intrigued by Clark, LOL.
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on 6 July 1999
The contributors make a compelling case for sentience rights for higher primates based on strong empirical evidence and demonstrable harm caused to other higher primates that infringes on their rights claims as sentient beings. I would ask if the authors might consider a similar work that expands the case for cetacean rights on the same basis, though.
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