14:56 GMT14 May 2021
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    Animal Selfies and the New Cutting Edge of Civil Rights

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    After roughly two years of court battles, a US Federal Court declared Naruto – a free-living monkey, copyright ownership of the internationally famous ‘monkey selfie’ photographs under the US Copyright Act. This may be the start of a change in the way that we humans view animals and their rights.

    Joining the program is Jeff Kerr, the General Counsel of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which is the largest animal rights organisation in the world, with over 6 and a half million members and James Hogan, a British animal rights campaigner with over 40 years’ experience working on behalf of animals in the UK and countries as far afield as Afghanistan and Russia.

    The case, Jeff says has “sparked an international debate about the fundamental human rights of animals, …the case has shown that the monkey, Naruto, should not be treated any differently from a human.”

    James however doubts that this case is going to make a lot of difference to the campaign for rights for animals in the broad sense. “I don’t think we can describe it as a ‘game changer’ so to speak, but having said that, I think it has certainly been good in terms of highlighting the profile of the issue, and this is beneficial for the cause of animal rights.” Jeff adds that animal rights are on the cutting edge of civil rights. Just as cases that were fought on behalf of women and children, or the LGBT community, or racial ethnic minorities, who were previously denied rights; the first cases didn’t always win, but you have to start kicking at the door in order to force it open. Unfortunately, in the US and around the world, the law is very slow in changing. So changing the mode of the discussion is a critical component to all of these cases.”

    James brings up the subject that it is a battle that is ongoing and mentions as an example that the UK government is preparing not to transfer into UK law, along with other EU laws, the regulation passed in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty that grants animal status as sentient beings.

    A discussion ensues that we humans may have to recognize that we are also animals, and if we adopt such a view this may change our world view not just towards animals but to ourselves. Jeff says that the scientific view is that humans are animals, and we share the planet with all other animals.” James adds that one of his favourite philosophers is Jeremy Bentham, and cites one of Bentham’s sayings:

    “The day may come when the rest of animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny…  The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

    The astonishing thing about this program, however, is that it took place at all. We are discussing animals in human terms, as beings with a history, a past, mothers and fathers, children, each as a unique somebody, not creatures to be kept in zoos. Thank you, Naruto.

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    Naruto, monkey selfie, Animal Rights, laws, animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), US Federal Court
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