Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2009
By: Hilzoy

A Change Of Pace

Yesterday, the House passed the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would make it illegal to "import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce" any nonhuman primate. (Humans are covered by the 13th Amendment.) This is one of those small-bore but really, really good bills that I've been rooting for for years. I wrote about it back in 2005; since I rather like my original post, here's a compressed and updated version, rather than a whole new one.

Owning primates as pets is a bad idea. Unlike dogs and cats, who have had thousands of years to adapt to us, nonhuman primates have the psyches they need to survive in a jungle or on a savannah, not in a human home. Most people buy them when they are cute little babies. At this point, like infants of most (mammalian) species, they are tractable and submissive. However, this (predictably) doesn't last. When they hit puberty, many of them become aggressive, and try to start dominance fights with members of what they think of as their pack (i.e., your household.) Sometimes they start with the pack's weakest members (i.e., your children.) Since most apes and monkeys are very strong, and have vicious bites, this is not pleasant.

Moreover, they are agile, athletic, clever, inquisitive, and have opposable thumbs. As someone who has owned cats and dogs, I have often been very grateful that they had neither the intelligence nor the opposable thumbs required to do things like open cupboards and turn doorknobs. Monkeys do. And they love to tear things apart for fun -- the contents of your pantry, your tax files, your clothes, the curtains, whatever. From the owner of a Capuchin monkey -- small as primates go:

"He can unlock windows and would open them all of the time, which is fine with the bars but not fine for my electric bill. So I rigged them shut. Well, he figured that out and broke the windows completely. So I had to get a screened-in patio that cost me 11 grand so that the mosquitoes would not infest his room and my house. The electric bill stays at a ridiculous rate.

He managed to pick at the walls enough until he could get his hands into it and then eventually tore giant holes around his room. He pulled out all of the insulation and the wiring. I had to contain him for a week while construction workers came in to rebuild the walls with a cement board, which, fortunately, he hasn't been able to destroy yet."

More fun: when you're up in the trees, you don't need to care where you pee, so most nonhuman primates don't. You can put diapers on them, but they can take them off again. Consider the implications for a monkey-owner's carpeting, furniture, etc. Consider the fact that almost every animal gets diarrhea sometimes. Yuck.

Third, they are not very trainable. Lots of people confuse intelligence with tractability, but the two are very different. Apes and monkeys are smart, but not tractable, except when they are young. Most of the chimps you see on TV are (in chimp terms) young children; by the time they get anywhere near adolescence, they are generally unusable as performers, since (understandably) they are more concerned with things like establishing dominance over other primates than with pleasing us.

For these reasons, nonhuman primates make really, really bad pets. They are destructive and at times vicious, and, as I said, they bite hard. As a result, most people who own them end up keeping them in cages. This is really dreadful for very intelligent, very social, emotionally complicated animals. And it's even worse when you consider that nonhuman primates tend to live from fifteen to thirty years; chimps in captivity live until around sixty. That's a very long time to be in prison.

Besides that, they are also a public health hazard. As I said earlier, primates bite:

"It is not reasonable to expect that you will never be bitten by any monkey. The relatively docile youngster eventually turns from play-aggression to the serious aggression of an adult. Proper management techniques go a long ways in coping. The larger the monkey, generally speaking, the bigger the problem. Yet it is hard to prepare someone for the onslaught of mature aggression in a monkey. Have you ever seen a rabid dog in the throes of an attack--the pursuit of an angry bull in a bull ring, the vicious ripping power of a lion's canine teeth? A mature monkey, even one who was hand-raised, can attack a friend or stranger with equal vengeance. An angry monkey has the cunning and dexterity to leap into the air and accurately take a swipe an the human eye, or to bite the human body in the most vulnerable places, the jugular vein, the veins of the wrists, the nerve-filled fingers of the hand. It almost takes the discipline of a professional trainer to deal with the personalities of some individual monkeys in a constructive way as they mature."

This is a danger to members of one's household, and to anyone a primate encounters if he or she escapes, since biting is one of their normal reactions to stress. (And they are very good at escaping. Here's a partial list of incidents involving escaped primates. And here's an article on someone who was attacked by chimps a few years back, with a picture of what remains of his face over sixty surgeries later.)

Besides the bites themselves, monkeys and apes also carry diseases. Since they are a lot more like us than cats or dogs are, they are susceptible to many more human diseases, and we are susceptible to more of theirs. Here is an article on all the diseases one can get from nonhuman primates, including ebola, Marburg, monkeypox, viral hepatitis and all sorts of delightful things. One that's particularly worth noting is Herpes B, which is widespread in many species of macaques. They tend to be asymptomatic, but when humans get Herpes B, they usually die. (And ask yourself this: how would a human doctor even know to look for a disease normally found only in macaques?)

So, to summarize: owning nonhuman primates as pets is bad for the owner, really bad for the primate, and bad for public health. Bad, bad, bad. And what do you do with your pet primate once you've decided you don't want to care for him or her any more? If you're lucky, you can find a sanctuary that takes them in, but there are very few of these, and they are generally full. You certainly can't reintroduce them into the wild after bringing them up as a sort of peculiar and hairy human child and expect good results. Most often, people either keep them in cages for the duration, abandon them, or euthanize them. All told, it's a sad, sad story.

Which is why the fact that the House passed this bill is a very, very good thing. The Humane Society reports that Sens. Boxer and Vitter plan to introduce it in the Senate soon. Write to your Senators and ask them to support it.

***

Postscript: Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93? I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue.

Hilzoy 12:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (65)

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Comments

Why did repubs vote against it?

1. being oppositionally difficult
2. they are intractable, even if only some are "intelligent"
3. they don't belive in evil-lotion!
4. hardline libertarianism
5. Ayn Random!

Posted by: Vax on February 26, 2009 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

I hadn't been aware of all the details (of how unsuitable primates are as domesticated pets), but none of them surprise me. I imagine relatively few of the larger mammal species are well suited for lives as pets. Yet people keep large cats, primates and other big predators anyway.

Long overdue to outlaw it.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 26, 2009 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

But they're so cute!I WANT A MONKEY!!

Posted by: paddy_boy on February 26, 2009 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Does this bill apply to primates used for research and drug development? You give an excellent discussion of why primates should never be used for pets. However, if these rules are applied across the board American drug companies will have to move even more jobs overseas. I do not know if this is part of the concern by the republicants or if they are just being obstinate.

Posted by: Kropotkin on February 26, 2009 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's just not primates, it's wolfs (and wolf/dogs), coyotes, wild cats, and all other forms of wildlife. Many people just don't get that cats and dogs are domesticated. They have been bred over thousands of years to remove violent dominance and predator subroutines, and in spite of that a few of them still have problems. Domesticated cats and dogs have been bred to act like children all their lives (bless them). When a tamed (not domesticated) wild animal grows up you still have what you started with, a wild animal.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on February 26, 2009 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

To your question at the end - that would go back to the brilliant sentence within parentheses in your opening: Humans are covered by the 13th Amendmendt.
I take it the GOPpers were upset that the trade in monkeys would now cease.

Posted by: SteinL on February 26, 2009 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans voted against it because Democrats voted for it. What's not to understand?

Posted by: Scott Forbes on February 26, 2009 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Many people just don't get that cats and dogs are domesticated. "

Hmm. I dunno about that. Dogs, sure, but cats?

Did we domesticate cats, or did they domesticate us?

Posted by: JoyceH on February 26, 2009 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

Kropotkin: Yes, this exempts research. (At least: colleges and universities, people licensed by APHIS to work with the species, and a few other exceptions.) It's aimed at the pet trade.

J. Frank: I agree. I'm generally in favor of banning ownership of all animals that have not historically been domesticated, though I imagine I could be persuaded to change my mind if, say, there was some species of vole that was neither dangerous nor psychologically unsuited to being a pet. (I'm imagining the vole being kept in a large cage, with other voles. Might be dreadful, but if not,, I'm OK with that, though I don't see the point.)

Here's a good link to a campaign to do this.

Posted by: hilzoy on February 26, 2009 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Hilzoy:

Thank you. That was most informative and persuasive.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on February 26, 2009 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

That's the flat earth segment of the party. Having been around only 7000 years they haven't yet had time to become fully domesticated. I hear those 9 absent Rs missed the vote because they were busy flinging poo.

Posted by: bubba on February 26, 2009 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

I understand and agree with your larger point, but I just had to say, I've never had a cat that couldn't open cupboards and our big cat knows how doorknobs work, even if he can't quite figure out how to turn them. One of my friends has all of those lever door handles, so her cat has started letting himself out of the apartment when she's not home.

But I can't help thinking that, with all of the trouble we have with (mostly) domesticated animals like cats, who decides they want even MORE trouble?

(Except for the ones that I think may be truly mentally ill -- remember the guy who was keeping a 500-pound tiger in his tiny New York apartment?)

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 26, 2009 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne: cats are capable of astonishing things. One of mine seems to have learned to turn on the oven -- it has one of those flat "easy to clean" sets of buttons, but she has to hit first 'Bake', then the three digits of the temperature, and then 'Start' to get it to work. She recently did it several times in a few days, which seemed to me hard to see as a coincidence.

I put a cookie rack on top of it, which has solved the problem for now.

Posted by: hilzoy on February 26, 2009 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Great post about an issue that I would normally think is a waste of Congress' time.

I will go out on a limb here and guess that Republicans voted against it so that they can later lampoon Congress for wasting time. It would be yet another example of them putting politics above public safety.

Posted by: Mike on February 26, 2009 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

Good stuff.

More like it. Sometimes we get a little bogged down with the same topics.

Thanks.

Posted by: jharp on February 26, 2009 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

"Great post about an issue that I would normally think is a waste of Congress' time."

a lot of stuff congress does seems like a waste of time until you get some background.

given that the news reporters and journalists are such a useless bunch of hacks, it is very good indeed that we have people like hilzoy ready to leap into the breach with good info.

thanks, hilzoy!

Posted by: karen marie on February 26, 2009 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue.

Because caring about animals, like monitoring volcanos, is for fags (ie Democrats). God wants me to buy monkeys for target practice.

Posted by: tatere on February 26, 2009 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats voted for it because it's sensible.

Republicans voted against it because Democrats voted for it.

Posted by: Captain USA on February 26, 2009 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Postscript: Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93? I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue.

Silly Hilzoy, it's because we're supposed to have dominion over the animals. Outlaw chimps as pets, and the next thing you know, we'll be their slaves in a futuristic world gone horribly wrong.

Posted by: anonymous37 on February 26, 2009 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Until I read your post, I hadn't thought about the issue much, and while I never supported the keeping of exotic pets and I guessed it probably wasn't a bad bill, I had a fairly negative instinctive reaction to it, because it seemed so obviously responsive to a single recent story in the news, and so many Congressional actions taken in response to salient but isolated news events (especially events that lack immediately obvious national significance) tend to be publicity-seeking nonsense. Regarding the Republicans' big number of votes against the bill, in addition to the obvious Gingrichian tendency to oppose absolutely everything, I'd put forward three possible explanations: they might have been responding to libertarian (or, perhaps, glibertarian) impulses against Governmental restrictions on stupid, selfish, or self-destructive behavior; they may not seen a case as compelling as the one you put, and had an instinctive reaction like my own, assuming it to be a dumb and grandstanding bill; or, more cynically, they may have recognized the bill's merits but realized that a lot of people who heard of the bill wouldn't read an argument like yours and would have a gut reaction like my own, and would therefore oppose the bill from a position of ignorance - especially as, after all, the jokes practically write themselves.

Alternatively, maybe the R's are just in the pocket of Big Monkey.

Posted by: Warren Terra on February 26, 2009 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

We have video evidence that the apes are planning to destroy the Statue of Liberty.

Posted by: TomB on February 26, 2009 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93? I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue.


It's because Republicans want to understand everything as a commodity.

And because voting for it implies there is something about animals we should respect. If it implied something about contempt or abusiveness they'd fall all over themselves piously promoting it as common sense Americanism.

Posted by: alan on February 26, 2009 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

Human primates are still primates. The House Republicans are doing exactly what adult chimps do - engage in pointless, self destructive and antisocial dominance struggles within the pack.

Since they do no admit their primate nature, they do not have the necessary self-knowledge to deal with it and get around it.

Posted by: Xenos on February 26, 2009 at 3:50 AM | PERMALINK

One assumes that the Republicans voted against it because it comes pretty close to banning George Bush from public life...

Posted by: al on February 26, 2009 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK
a lot of stuff congress does seems like a waste of time until you get some background.
Like, say, approving money for volcano monitoring?

(Most) Republican lawmakers are not serious about governing and so don't take the time or invest the energy to discover the merits of a bill.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on February 26, 2009 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

About a dozen years ago one of the GOP talking points was that ownership was good for animals -- any animals. I think this one was championed by Rush Limbaugh and Alan Keyes (!)

The argument seemed to be that dogs and cats live longer in captivity than they do in the wild, and thrive in urban areas that would seem to be hostile to non-human habitation, so ta-da! it's good to own non-humans.

Besides the creepy resemblance to slavery narratives, this had the slight problem of ignoring the success of pigeons and cockroaches... but that doesn't mean Republicans have shifted their perspective at all since the 20th century.

Posted by: keith on February 26, 2009 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

I think anonymous37 had the answer -- in the mindset of the Repug base, God has given man dominion over the Earth and all creatures on it -- anything that smacks of animal rights would run against that basic principle, just like their knee-jerk opposition to environmental protection.

Posted by: RickT on February 26, 2009 at 7:44 AM | PERMALINK

Postscript: Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93? I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue.

The bill means more government intrusion in our lives, particularly with respect to the bill protecting people from themselves. Think helmet laws for motorcycle riders. And since repubs are closer to libertarians than dems are, more repubs voted against it.

You should know this.

Posted by: red state mike on February 26, 2009 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Does it actually outlaw having a non-human primate pet? Or, just outlaw trafficking? It's probably true that liberty to weirdly keep a dangerous animal as a pet isn't affected by this law, except that it's now more difficult to accomplish. But, the commerce is curtailed. That's a slippery slope for Republicans. Who knows maybe next the government will try to eliminate scams in some other part of the world of commerce reducing their ability to make a living.

Cookie sheet?! Now, you're just giving the cat ideas!

Posted by: dennisS on February 26, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

I'm wondering why the Republicans don't push for more monkey rights, since that could lead to monkeys voting, and monkeys (no offense, monkeys) aren't all that bright, making them ideal Republicans.

But maybe Republicans opposed the bill because they might want to own a monkey someday, and no commie Democrat is going to deny them the right to own that monkey. Why would they want one? Because when they finally have their own monkey, they can prove once and for all that people did not evolve from chimpanzees. They will do this right after they figure out that whole DNA thing. And then they'll be laughing at those liberal commie bastards. Ha ha ha...

Posted by: Racer X on February 26, 2009 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

al: One assumes that the Republicans voted against it because it comes pretty close to banning George Bush from public life...

Here is an idea pregnent with potential: Nominally, he would be stuck in Texas, among his peers. No one could fly or drive him across state lines. But this primate could escape and drive himself to another state. (We can only pray he returns to flying.)

Posted by: Bob Johnson on February 26, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike wrote: repubs are closer to libertarians than dems are

Well, yeah -- neither has a political philosophy that survives contact with reality. You should know this.

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on February 26, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

But how about ones that aid disabled people? No, really, I understand smaller primates (not chimps) can be trained and are safe. Maybe I'm reading the wrong sites. http://www.monkeyhelpers.org/ (its real)

Posted by: fuzed on February 26, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

I recommend "Next of Kin", a book by a primate researcher who was involved in experiments to teach chimps sign language. The chimps were raised in home settings because it was felt that they would need that type of intensive interaction to learn language. Because of the issues mentioned in the post, the chimps eventually were returned to more typical research uses, which can be inhumane in the first place, even more so with these animals. The author helped establish a refuge.

Great comment by Xenos above, exactly why we need to study primate and other animal behavior. I think the more we know about other animals, the more we recognize and understand our own behavior. I count my dogs in that, who of course can open cabinets, get on counters, and took about 5 minutes to figure out our lever style door handles and liberate themselves - so doors have to stay locked here.

Posted by: shoeflyin on February 26, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

So the bill is limited to pets? No impact on small monkeys used as service animals by impaired humans? IIRC, some have been trained to help quadriplegics, and I think I heard/saw a story on one that senses when his person is about to have a seizure.

Posted by: nanuq on February 26, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

And pit bulls.

Posted by: Luther on February 26, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

As someone who has owned cats and dogs, I have often been very grateful that they had neither the intelligence nor the opposable thumbs required to do things like open cupboards and turn doorknobs.

I have a recurring nightmare in which my dog develops opposable thumbs. I wake up screaming.

Posted by: shortstop on February 26, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

The RepoTaliban and their mouth pieces have, by their acts and quite literally out of their mouths, shown and stated that they want the United State to fail (if the leader fails the organization he leads fails. Right?) under Obama and the Democratic majority (interesting the RepoTaliban refers to it as "being in power," not the “elected majority”.

To them it is like the US government can be treated like Hussain's government; that it is in need of a military invasion, and overthrow.
They have shown that as a Party they will oppose anything the Democrats or the President bring before the Congress.

Whether or not the bill was a good bill is not their point. I bet the 76 Yea voters are getting "Whipped" as we speak.

Get used to it. Just as with Clinton the RepoTaliban are into overthrowing the elected government by any means they can dream up so that they are “in power.”

Posted by: Marnie on February 26, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, while I see the problems with keeping non-human primates in domestic captivity (as well as other wild animals such as alligators, big cats, wolves, etc.), I also see a problem with a legal ban on keeping species that were not historically domesticated: it basically bans the activity of the amateur naturalist. Raising frogs from frogspawn found in a pond, catching the garter snake or field mouse in the back yard and keeping it for observation, etc. That was an important part of my science education growing up, and it's an important part of my daughter's science education now. I wouldn't want to see it banned.

Not to mention that my daughter's favorite pets are . . . well . . . toads. So I have a certain obligation to stand up for the toad-owners' lobby.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 26, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Kropotkin asks
"Does this bill apply to primates used for research and drug development?"

Virtually all small "lab" animals are "farm" bred so that their health and their genetic susceptibilities and resistances and inherited abnormalities are well known.

I don't know for a fact, but probably the same is true of primates.

In and of itself that still doesn't come of feeling so good, since these animals are held in cages all their lives.
But then virtually all domesticated animals are penned up for life so that we can more easily control them. So there is lots of moral and ethical gray area there.

Posted by: Marnie on February 26, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Postscript: Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93?
-----------

Professional courtesy.

The Internet Says It
I Believe It
And That Settles It

Posted by: That Settles It on February 26, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the RepuGs were afraid it might work retroactively against a former Prez.

Shortstop, did you ever see the "Far Side" cartoon of a doggy science lab, where the dogs, clothed in long white coats were trying to devise a method of opening doors? Meanwhile, a large pussy cat was outside a lab window making faces at them.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 26, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

bert, I was actually thinking of that cartoon when I wrote that comment.

And yay for Mr. Toad's daughter being so pro-amphibian. She's one of my people.

Posted by: shortstop on February 26, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I am surprised republicans voted no since everyone knows that once you own a monkey sooner or later you are going to marry a monkey and before you know it, people are fornicating at monkey swinger parties and that's just how we got AIDS.

I just occurred to me why republicans voted no. They thought the bill was referring to owning black people. They thought it would push the party back to it's real 'Roots'.

Posted by: ScottW on February 26, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Fuzed: the bill does exempt Capuchin monkeys who assist the disabled. (I had never heard of this before I read the bill, and was fascinated.)

Posted by: hilzoy on February 26, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

hilzoy wrote in comments: "I'm generally in favor of banning ownership of all animals that have not historically been domesticated"

I am in favor of banning ownership of all animals, period.

Non-human animals are sentient beings and as such should not have the legal status of "property" but should be recognized as legal persons with rights under law.

The relationship between a human being and his or her "companion animals", i.e. "pet" cats and dogs, should be that of legal guardian and not that of "ownership".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 26, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"For these reasons, nonhuman primates make really, really bad pets."

Do humans make good pets???

As for Republicans rejecting the bill- of course they did. Its partisan opposition, but also to them probably an expansion of "big government."

Remember: laissez-faire= good, regulation= bad

Posted by: Piper on February 26, 2009 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

SecAn, domestic pets do have rights under the law. They are legally protected from cruelty, abuse, and neglect, as well as required to be inoculated against certain diseases. (Whether those laws are enforced very well is another thing.) That puts them in a different category from other forms of property. To use your term, there is an element of guardianship in the owner/pet relationship.

Recognizing animals as "persons" might have some broader legal consequences, such as bringing them within the scope of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause. I doubt that would be wise. The relationship between humans and domesticated species has certain biological parameters that the law ignores at its peril. A dog won't ever be able to live self-sufficiently in human society, and therefore is permanently in a subordinate position. But if you meant something else by "person," I might agree. I just am not sure what you mean.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 26, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Shortstop, my daughter is not just pro-amphibian (though they are her favorites) but pro-herp and generally pro-critter. Among the catch-and-release pets we've hosted were a DeKay's snake, numerous tadpoles, a praying mantis, a field mouse, a ground skink, and a baby snapping turtle. So you can understand my interest in keeping the law at bay.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 26, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Tell me, having not read the bill, does it cover sanctuaries and research facilities?

I have a friend who, when she was working on her masters in Primate Anthropology, worked on a 'Gibbon Ranch' north of Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to go out there, watch the Gibbons in the created habitat. It was really fascinating, and they were successfully breeding them (which was the point).

I wouldn't imagine that the bill would be written in such a way as to discourage legitimate research, but the language, used in the post, "illegal to 'import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce" any nonhuman primate.'" is pretty unambiguous.

Is there an exemption for research institutions?

Posted by: Shantyhag on February 26, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Does the bill use "primate" in its proper cladistic sense? Richard Dawkins wrote (in "The Ancestor's Tale) about having a pet bushbaby when he was young. (He was living in Tanzania at the time.) Other than urinating on everyone, Percy seemed like a good pet. I don't know if bushbabies could carry diseases harmful to humans.

Primates include more than great and lesser apes, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys. Kiss your pet lemur goodbye.

Posted by: Tim H on February 26, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Shantyhag: no, it doesn't cover research facilities and sanctuaries and stuff. Specifically: it excludes colleges and universities, and (iirc) many non-profits. Also, there's a way to become an accredited owner of primates, via APHIS. It's directed at the private pet trade.

Posted by: hilzoy on February 26, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

hilzoy: Fuzed: the bill does exempt Capuchin monkeys who assist the disabled.

You gotta watch those Capuchins. One attacked me in the Amazon when I got too close to what was presumably his baby (I didn't do it on purpose; I was looking the other way and didn't see the mama holding the bambino). Fortunately, my walking away backwards while uttering soothing apologies calmed him down.

SecAn: The relationship between a human being and his or her "companion animals", i.e. "pet" cats and dogs, should be that of legal guardian and not that of "ownership".

That's how I always think of it. That our puppy appears to believe she signed a contract requiring her protect us by barking at cabs with lighted ads on top doesn't change that.

Mr. Toad: Oh, and Shortstop, my daughter is not just pro-amphibian (though they are her favorites) but pro-herp and generally pro-critter.

Then she's even more one of my people. Thanks for reminding me that I want to catch the herpetology show at the local nature museum before it closes. You're running a fine household there, by the way, and I commend y'all.

Posted by: shortstop on February 26, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Does anyone have any idea why Democrats voted for this bill 247-2, while Republicans voted against it 76-93? I didn't realize that this was a partisan issue."

My guess is that PETA backed the bill and/or a liberal Dem sponsored the legislation. If it pisses off liberals, it'll play well at home...

Posted by: danimal on February 26, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Lovers of amphibians may wish to catch the Museum of Science [Boston] "Frogs: a chorus of colors" exhibition now running through May 25th. A real treat! :o)

Posted by: genome on February 26, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

@Piper @10:54 AM

Humans make excellent pets! It's so easy to house-break them...

On a sidenote, they make for the most exciting hunting as well (see my autobiography, The Most Dangerous Game)

Posted by: David on February 26, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

The Fabulous Mr. Toad touches on a number of questions related to animal welfare and animal rights that are worthy of discussion.

In that regard, I would like to commend to everyone's attention an anthology entitled Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, edited by University of Chicago professors Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum. The essays explore a range of views on animal welfare and animal rights. Contributors include Gary Francione, Peter Singer and Stephen Wise.

This book is of particular interest given that editor Cass Sunstein was recently appointed by President Obama to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in which position Sunstein will have a powerful role in reviewing federal agency proposals for public health, safety, consumer, and environmental protections.

In paper entitled "The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer" [PDF] published by the University of Chicago Law School, Sunstein wrote:

In this essay I have three goals. The first is to reduce the intensity of the debate by demonstrating that almost everyone believes in animal rights, at least in some minimal sense; the real question is what that phrase actually means.

My second goal is to give a clear sense of the lay of the land—to show the range of possible positions, and to explore what issues separate reasonable people. In this way, I attempt to provide a kind of primer for current and coming debates.

The third goal is to defend a particular position about animal rights, one that, like Bentham’s, puts the spotlight squarely on the issues of suffering and well-being. This position requires rejection of some of the most radical claims by animal rights advocates, especially those that stress the “autonomy” of animals, or that object to any human control and use of animals.

But my position has radical implications of its own. It strongly suggests, for example, that there should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture. It also suggests that there is a strong argument, in principle, for bans on many current uses of animals. In my view, those uses might well be seen, one hundred years hence, to be a form of unconscionable barbarity. In this respect, I suggest that Bentham and Mill were not wrong to offer an analogy between current uses of animals and human slavery.

Sunstein's contribution to the "Current Debates and New Directions" anthology is an essay entitled "Can Animals Sue?" in which he basically argues that if legal protections for animals are to have the force of actual "rights", then animals must have the legal standing to sue for violation of their rights, and that this right should be exercised by court-recognized human representatives on the animals' behalf.

While Sunstein will not be in a position at OIRA to establish animal rights as a legal principle, he will be in a position to work towards improvements in the existing animal welfare paradigm, through -- in his words -- "extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture ... and bans on many current uses of animals."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 26, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: Thanks! It certainly is a well-populated household at times.

SecAn: Thanks for the tip -- looks like an interesting read. Sunstein is one scary smart fellow. And it's a fascinating topic.

It occurs to me that the notion of property rights over animals doesn't just give rights to the owners, it also potentially gives a voice and a protector to the animal. Roughly speaking, other people are not allowed to harm my property, so they're not allowed to harm my dog, and if they do, I can take them to court. Maybe another legal concept could do that job as well, but it's one thing property rights have done for animals.

Of course, banning property rights over animals would have huge implications for farming and the food industry. I don't think it's going too far to predict that meat would no longer be commercially available, even from local family farms with relatively humane animal-treatment practices. In fact, I doubt if you even would be able to buy dog food containing meat by-products anymore. Without property rights, there simply wouldn't be a market.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 26, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

SecAn: The relationship between a human being and his or her "companion animals", i.e. "pet" cats and dogs, should be that of legal guardian and not that of "ownership".

Precisely. The term "animal rights" is typically knee-jerk for right-wingers because it offends their delicate sensibilities regarding humans being the super-special snowflake creations of their Big Angry Sky Daddy.

The term "animal welfare" however, indicates the same level of care and concern for living creatures that (1) are self-aware enough to feel pain, hunger, and emotions (2) humans are responsible for through thousands of years of domestication. All without offending the flat-earth idiots' notions of species superiority.

Ownership of exotic animals as pets comes from a desire for a status symbol. It's unbelievably cruel and detrimental to a wild animal; tigers were not meant to be in NYC apartments.

Responsible ownership/guardianship of animals which have been domesticated for millenia is quite another story. IOW, I don't own three cats. My three cats own me, and they damn well know it. Like shortstop, I think my cats are under the impression that they have signed a contract wherein they will deign to make themselves available for petting and cuddling in exchange for the human staff to feed them twice a day, change the litter box, provide medical care, and be on-call to provide hours of entertainment via the laser pointer, catnip toys, and a bird feeder outside the picture window.

Posted by: Keori on February 26, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, you're going about your cat/oven situation wrong. You need to give your cat a book of cookie recipes.

Tuna chip, anyone?

Posted by: Quicksand on February 26, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Good to know! Thank's for the response, Hilzoy!

Posted by: Shantyhag on February 26, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Cats don't have owners, or guardians.
They have staff.

Posted by: thalarctos on February 26, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the Democrats ... I would go further though .. if you want to keep a wild animal (except a primate, banned) you would have to get a license and a home inspection so that life long humane treatment is assured.

oh speaking of primates...

There was a special on PBS "Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History: Introduction" about what happens to older shimps after they are used by labs or when their owners are tired of them.

Tragic... and while I am not opposed to using chimps for scientific research, I think those used should be "retired" in a humane fashion.

And people who suddenly find their chimps cute primates ahve grown up to be wild animals (DUH)and can't or don't want to keep them should be charged to keep them in "retirement."
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/category/episodes/by-animal/chimpanzee/

Posted by: Kurt on February 26, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Republican's voted against this bill because they think it would ban them from owning PRIMARIES, and as we've seen, the RNC is going to use primaries to punish those who voted for the Stim.

"Primate" is a word they don't know.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 26, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

i think the gop voted against the bill as a show of solidarity for the fondly remembered "bedtime for bonzo."

Posted by: dj spellchecka on February 26, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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