Barbara Ehrenreich in The Nation:
Hiasl, a 26-year old Austrian-based chimpanzee, is petitioning the courts for human status, and let me be the first to extend him a warm welcome to our species. My animal rights activism has never gone beyond the cage-free eggs’ stage; it’s the human possibilities raised by Hiasl’s case that caught my attention. If a chimpanzee can be declared a person, then there’s nothing in the way of a person becoming an ape–and I’m not just talking about a retroactive status applied to ex-husbands. In fact, I predict a surge in trans-specied people, who will eagerly go over to the side of the chimps.
The transition need not involve costly, time-consuming, surgical arm extensions and whole-body Rogaine treatments, since we are practically chimpanzees already. We share 99 percent of our genome with them, making it possible for chimps to accept human blood transfusions and kidney donations. Despite their vocal limitations, they communicate easily with each other and can learn human languages. They use tools and live in groups that display behavioral variations attributable to what anthropologists recognize as culture.
And we may be a lot closer biologically than Darwin ever imagined. Last May, paleontologists reported evidence of inter-breeding between early humans and chimps as recently as 5 million years ago, and proposed that modern humans are the result of this ancient predilection for bestiality.