The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is taking the stand that all intelligent and self-aware animals should be given legal rights to protect them from inhumane treatment. The Institute argues that science is beginning to demonstrate that in some species the animals meet every criteria that we use to define our humanness – intelligence, tool use, language, problem solving, culture, and self-awareness – and that “The general thrust of human history is toward the progressive inclusion of previously marginalized individuals and groups”… “Now we’re reaching the point where this imperative compels us to cross the species barrier so we can protect some of the most vulnerable and exploited animals on the planet.”
Until now this group has concerned itself with how technology affects people, and I would guess that in deciding what defines ‘human vs machine’, they naturally had to define what is uniquely ‘human’…and soon ran into serious problems in coming up with an indisputable non-biological definition.
The concept of ‘non-human persons’ has been bandied around by animal rights groups for a while, but this is the first serious effort to establish it as a new legal category. If the idea gets traction in our society, it might make animal welfare a much simpler issue to manage.
Of course, it would be even simpler for us each to consider the ‘human’ in ‘humane’, and treat animals with kindness and consideration in the first place.