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Rattling The Cage: Towards Legal Rights for Animals Paperback – 12 Jul 2001
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Inside the illustrative cover, of a primate's hand hanging onto a mesh of bars, American lawyer Steve Wise shows that he too has claws. Having defended non-humans in lawsuits for over 20 years after being inspired by Peter Singer's seminal work, Animal Liberation, Wise sets out his stall to persuade that certain non-humans, specifically chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimps) who share 98.3 per cent of our DNA, are entitled to limited "dignity rights" of bodily integrity and liberty. Couching his argument in determinedly jargon-free language--for the benefit of us chumps rather than chimps--he canters through a chronology of rights, human and non, from Aristotle's assertion that animals lacked the ability to reason or think, through centuries of a subsequently hierarchical Great Chain of Being. Wise compares the law to a brick wall, strengthened by the Greeks, Romans and early Christians, but he perceives it finally crumbling due to its unfair intellectual foundations. Recent studies by eminent primatologists such as Jane Goodall and Professor Susan Savage-Rumbaugh increasingly show a state of consciousness in chimpanzees that place them on a par with young children, and possibly above the severely mentally disabled. Wise contentiously asserts that this degree of autonomy should decide the level of legal rights, creating an animal Magna Carta which would see them re-classified as "persons" rather than "chattels", with humane, if not quite human, rights.
Understandably, Wise is strongest on the legal history, and to the non-specialist mind, his explanations of the vagaries of the law are lucid and helpful. Indeed, they almost dominate a book that at times seems uncertain whether its two strands--the legal and the scientific--truly do come together. What it certainly does provide is a necessarily urgent corrective to our everyday complacency about non-humans, adding to recent valuable literature on the subject, such as Richard D Ryder's updated Animal Revolution and JM Coetzee's polemical novel, The Lives of Animals. In his bid to take the chimp from the laboratory to the courtroom, Steve Wise adds vigorous and unapologetically passionate flesh to the bones of our compassion, which on its own too often proves not enough. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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on 8 May 2002
A very useful and well-written introduction to the legal status of chimpanzees and bonobos. Steven Wise argues that our primate cousins should be given legal rights, but argues this on the grounds that they share our cognitive skills, as opposed to the usual animal rights argument (from Jeremy Bentham to Peter Singer) that the mental ability of animals is irrelevant compared to their capacity for suffering. While I hope that Wise's book will do much to improve the lot of chimps and bonobos, I wonder how much good it will do for the wider animal rights movement.
on 9 June 2000
The author combines deep and broad scholarship with eminently readable prose to produce a highly informative, entertaining, witty, and humorous book - an amazing feat for an attorney! His compassionate passion to improve the lot of non-human primates, whose intelligence he documents startlingly, infuses his analogies to children in general and to his own children in particular - including the Twin Soldiers of Entropy - with warmth and insight. To use a favorite word of the author, this work is profoundly enculturating.
on 23 June 2000
This is one of the most wonderful books and to use an over-egged phrase, it's changed my life! It's beautifully written, intensely thought-provoking, funny, tragic, shocking and inspiring! I recommend it to EVERYONE whether you're into non-fiction or not, animals or not; it's so much more.
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