Animal Rights

Does Bonzo Have Human Rights?

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From The Guardian via Slashdot comes a story about whether to grant chimps human rights. Snippets:

He recognises himself in the mirror, plays hide-and-seek and breaks into fits of giggles when tickled. He is also our closest evolutionary cousin.

A group of world leading primatologists argue that this is proof enough that Hiasl, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, deserves to be treated like a human. In a test case in Austria, campaigners are seeking to ditch the 'species barrier' and have taken Hiasl's case to court. If Hiasl is granted human status—and the rights that go with it—it will signal a victory for other primate species and unleash a wave of similar cases….

Primatologists and experts—from the world's most famous primate campaigner, Jane Goodall, to Professor Volker Sommer, a renowned wild chimp expert at University College London—will give evidence in the case, which is due to come to court in Vienna within the next few months.

One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee's DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans—closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses. They will cite recent findings that wild apes hunt with home-made spears and can fight battles and make peace. In New Zealand, apes—gorillas, orang utans, chimpanzees and bonobos—were granted special rights as 'non-human hominids' in 1999 to grant protection from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction.

Sommer, an evolutionary anthropologist, said: 'It's untenable to talk of dividing humans and humanoid apes because there are no clear-cut criteria—neither biological, nor mental, nor social.'

More here.

Reason defended experimenting on animals here.

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  1. Insert Planet of the Apes joke here, double bonus points if said joke includes the line “get your filthy paws off of me you God damned dirty ape!!”

  2. The main problem with granting apes the same rights as humans is that they will not be able to comprehend the concept of “rights”. For example there are a large number of apes granted human rights currently attending Northeastern University. Maybe the wild chimps can grok Rights.

    I am an advocate of human rights for all stoned apes.

  3. Well, I think Canada should recognize them as humans, as throwing feces at people up there is acceptable.

  4. But they’re so damned ugly!

    With the chimps, bonobos, and orangutans, there’s some argument that they are close enough to sapient to deserve better treatment than, say, chickens. We’re likely going to run into this issue with AI (not Amnesty International–the other one) at some point, and we may encounter it if we start tinkering with the intelligence of other animals (or begin creating our own [insert maniacal laughter]).

    Oh, here’s one: I didn’t expect some sort of planet of the apes!

  5. The best bit in the article is this:

    We argue that he’s a person and he’s capable of owning something himself, as opposed to being owned, and that he can manage his money. This means he can start a court case against Baxter, which at the very least should mean his old age pension is secure.

    So now they’re arguing he has more capability than what the government wants to give to 95% of those who are unequivocably human. But maybe they’ll grant him the right to manage his own money only after he passes a high-school class on balancing his checkbook. And what happens when he wants to buy illegal drugs with his pension?

  6. I didn’t expect some sort of planet of the apes!

    Nobody expects the planet of the apes!

  7. I guess the answer is that the Ape has rights if we decide he does, which is the same criteria under which we decide anybody posseses the totally mystical quality of “rights”.

  8. Our chief weapon is surprise. . .surprise and fur. . .fur and surprise. . . . Our two weapons are fur and surprise. . .and ruthless feces throwing. . . . Our *three* weapons are fur, surprise, and ruthless feces throwing. . .and an almost fanatical devotion to bananas. . . . Our *four*. . .no. . . . *Amongst* our weapons. . . . Amongst our weaponry. . .are such elements as fur, surprise. . . . I’ll come in again.

  9. tros wrote:
    > The main problem with granting apes
    > the same rights as humans is that
    > they will not be able to comprehend
    > the concept of “rights”.

    Many mentally disabled humans do not understand the concept of rights, yet we grant rights to them anyway.

  10. SmartGuy Peter McHollis,

    Wouldn’t that throw a monkey wrench into the works if a sign-language-speaking chimp asked for his freedom? Whoa.

    Clearly, granting full human rights to our fellow great apes is pushing things a bit. If we give them those, then we should also be prepared to prosecute them when they throw feces.

  11. Who wants to go to Vienna when they decide this, wear loinclothers stand outside the courthouse and say:

    Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

    I figure it’ll be pretty good if get like 500 people doing it.

  12. Clearly, granting full human rights to our fellow great apes is pushing things a bit. If we give them those, then we should also be prepared to prosecute them when they throw feces.

    Hmm…is this a suggestion that one cannot have rights without also having duties (in this case, the duty to refrain from turd tossing)?

    I’m not sure that notion is going to play well here.

  13. What do you mean throwing feces is acceptable in CANADA?

  14. So wouldn’t this mean that we would have to let apes vote?

    And that we wouldn’t be able to restrict their movements or right to travel? An ape could walk down the street just like anyone else – right?

    And wouldn’t we have to prosecute apes that have sex with other apes that are below the age of 18? And that we’d have to imprison biologists who filmed any apes under the age of 18 having sex.

    And if an ape was terminally ill, wouldn’t we have to consult with his next of kin before euthanizing him? Actually, in most jurisdictions, a vet would not be able to euthanize an injured or sick ape even if he could somehow obtain informed consent.

    Heck, you have to obtain informed consent before performing ANY medical procedure, so does this mean that we can’t perform veterinary medicine on apes?

  15. I hate every ape I see,
    from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-zee…
    You’ll never make a monkey outta me…

    Oh My God, I was wrong,
    it was Earth all along,
    I guess you finally made a monkey out of me!

    I love you, Dr. Zaius!

  16. What: https://www.reason.com/blog/show/119471.html

    Read the article link there. I’m just amazed by the fact that the woman will likely not have a criminal record for what she did. It’s kind of batshit insane.

  17. Is this bizarro news day on H ‘n R or something?

  18. FFF: Actually it was human-shit insane…

    Yeah…I know. *dodges tomatoe*

  19. FinFang,

    That would be a good Planet of the Apes reference. In fact better than “get your filthy paws off of me…” My compliments.

  20. It’suntenable to talk of dividing humans and humanoid apes because there are no clear-cut criteria – neither biological, nor mental, nor social.

    If there’s no biological difference between humans and apes, how come we can’t procreate with apes?

    And before you weisenheimers ask, no, I haven’t actually tried to procreate with apes.

  21. Thomas,

    They are also human beings. If we grant animals a set of real rights, analogous to human rights, it’ll start us down the slippery slope. How do you measure sentience? There is no method that I know of for doing that. You’ll end up with every whacko out there claiming that some animal shows sentience because it does something in front of a mirror that looks sentient. Then you’ll have people like this getting you charged with assault and battery for slapping your dog or cat on the behind for doing something bad.

  22. What if they want to eat goose liver?

  23. This is the third monkey themed story of the day.

  24. This has been addressed in a wonderful Connie Willis short story, whose title escapes me at the moment. It’s in “Fire Watch.”

    Thomas: I think there are different criteria for having rights, connected by an or-clause. I.E, you have rights if you are human or otherwise sentient. Severely mentally disabled humans get by through the first clause, and the question is whether a chimp gets by through the second.

  25. FinFangFoom,

    We missed Monkey Tuesday, that’s all.

  26. That Reason article Gillespie links to is riddled with factual errors.

    Tom Regan never taught at UNC; he has taught at NC State since 1967. Peter Singer does not claim “that sentient creatures-all those capable of feeling pain-must essentially be considered moral equivalents to human beings.” Instead he argues that animals we casually treat as means to the ends of our own satisfaction possess enough of a physiological similarity to us that we owe it to them not inflict any pain on them whenever possible. (This is a fairly old argument, by the way. As Jeremy Bentham put it: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”)

    I’ve said this on other threads, but when people attack everyone who speaks up for animals used in experiments or raised in factory farms on the grounds that PETA is bonkers or “rights” talk is only applicable to persons, they are missing the point. Their own (admittedly often overheated) rhetoric to the contrary, animal “rights” activists are primarily interested in defending the most important right of every sentient creature: The right to be left alone.

  27. Anybody who listens to Bright Eyes is just terribly sad.

    Frankly, they can grant all the rights to chimps they want (which are apes, F^3) if they’ll then consent to have their own children used for medical experiments instead. I think that’s a fair trade.

  28. If we start giving chimps the same rights as humans, I guess we’d better be prepared for the Democrats to start targeting them in voter registration drives.

  29. I think the question is whether or not monkeys know to avoid cigarrettes, HFCS, and transfats. If they don’t, its obvious that the state needs to step in to protect them.

  30. Huh. Turns out DEVO was right all along. The fact that we’re even discussing human rights for apes indicates that we are well along the path to devolution.

  31. False dichotomy. Fonz back on the dogeating tip, I see.

  32. Monkeys make everything funny. That is all.

  33. One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans – closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses.

    Yes, but it’s the other 2.something percent that makes the difference.

    And I’m all for prosecuting the little bass turds for flinging, well, turds.

  34. I’m a fleabit peanut monkey
    All my friends are junkies
    That’s not really true

    I’m a cold Italian pizza
    I could use a lemon squeezer
    Would you do?

    But I’ve been bit and I’ve been tossed around
    By every she-rat in this town
    Have you, babe?

    Well, I am just a monkey man
    I’m glad you are a monkey woman too

    I was bitten by a boar
    I was gouged and I was gored
    But I pulled it on through

    Yes, I’m a sack of broken eggs
    I always have an unmade bed
    Don’t you?

    Well, I hope we’re not too messianic
    Or a trifle too satanic
    We love to play the blues

    Well I am just a monkey man
    I’m glad you are a monkey, monkey woman too, babe

    I’m a monkey
    I’m a monkey
    I’m a monkey man
    I’m a monkey man
    I’m a monkey. . . .

  35. In New Zealand, apes – gorillas, orang utans, chimpanzees and bonobos – were granted special rights as ‘non-human hominids’ in 1999 to grant protection from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction.

    That isn’t an argument for giving chimps human rights. 8 year old humans can’t vote, own property, or buy beer but they are protected by law from slavery, torture, murder, and extinction. Okay maybe not extinction.

  36. That guy on the left looks like Vaclav Havel.

  37. Mick,
    Classic

  38. Turns out that Michael Jackson and Bubbles were well ahead of the times. Who knew?

  39. Alright, alright, they can have rights. But they shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other.

  40. They can marry. They just can’t call it “marriage”.

  41. George,

    Given H&R’s track record, this thread is surprisingly un-hostile towards this issue, all things being relative, of course.

    Personally, I’m applauding their nascent ability to like reason and learn and stuff, as opposed to the normal poo-flinging.

    I wonder if someone dropped a monolith on them, or something.

  42. They can have their rights as soon as one ape says “No!”

    And they can have my loyalty as simian overlords when one proclaims the law “Ape shall not kill ape!”

  43. “Monkeys make everything funny. That is all.”

    I hate to say it, but I’m the guy in the room that Dane Cook talks about.

    I don’t like monkeys. They misbehave and throw their poo around in a festive manner.

  44. They misbehave and throw their poo around in a festive manner.
    Yeah, but so do Canadians.

  45. Ashish George is wrong. Animals in nature have no “right to be left alone.” They are chow for anything stronger, faster or cleverer than they are. So, in fact, are we. Rights are claims humans make against each other, not against the forces of nature.

    That being said, I favor treating animals we own humanely, because it makes us better humans. To make a pet or a musuem exhibit out of an animal, then turn around and treat it as a mere thing when it becomes inconvenient isn’t noble behavior, and I don’t have any problem with people feeling an obligation to their animal charges.

    Kevin

  46. “I. Self. Divine. | April 4, 2007, 11:35am | #
    They misbehave and throw their poo around in a festive manner.
    Yeah, but so do Canadians.”

    Aresen…. oh, Aresen.

  47. “Rights are claims humans make against each other, not against the forces of nature.”

    Yes, exactly. The claim is that apes have rights which humans must respect, not that hyenas and ticks must respect.

  48. They can have their “rights” when they can recite the Preamble to the Constitution.

  49. We the Apes, in order to form a more perfect feces-throwing community, establish a brutal pecking order, insure domestically raised lesser monkeys for snacks, provide for the common carnage, promote the general tick-picking, and secure the Blessings of Limitless Bananas to Ourselves and our Posteriors, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United Apes of The World.

  50. United Apes of America?

  51. I’ll agree with Ronald Bailey that an ape can get my respect for its rights when it agrees, without being coerced, to respect my rights.

  52. Is this bizarro news day on H ‘n R or something?

    I think they’re trying to distract us from Monday’s Supreme Court decision on Massachusetts, the EPA, and global warming.

  53. Look, let’s get down to the brass tacks here. Once an ape can point a gun at me and demand liberty, why, he will get it! Heck, this week and this week only, I’ll concede to his liberty demands with a pointy stick.

  54. “with a pointy stick.”

    shut up, Mr. Apricot.

  55. Personally, I’m applauding their nascent ability to like reason and learn and stuff, as opposed to the normal poo-flinging.

    I wonder if someone dropped a monolith on them, or something.

    Are we talking about the monkeys or the H&R commenters now?

    Anybody who listens to Bright Eyes is just terribly sad.

    The primates in question listen to Bright Eyes? They are indisputably sub-human, non-sentient beings in that case.

  56. Well, I guess this means we must now bring the blessings of democracy and liberty to the apes.
    Make sure the bombers are gassed up and ready to go, Dick!

  57. One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans – closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses.

    And much closer than the relationship of the french and irish to humans.

  58. Darwinian Man, though well-behaved,
    At best is only a monkey shaved.

    – Josh

  59. Assuming one takes on the whole philosophy of “rights” in the first place, it seems that one must concede that apes (and any living thing, really) have moral rights–whether you call them “human rights” or whatever–to the extent that they have the qualities upon which we base our rights. Our rights are not based on our species, but upon our abilities–to suffer, to think, to fear, to have a sense of ourselves and our future, to be sentient, to be reflective, etc.

    But someone might say “[this will] start us down the slippery slope. How do you measure sentience? There is no method that I know of for doing that. You’ll end up with every whacko out there claiming that some animal shows sentience because it does something in front of a mirror that looks sentient.

    Eventually we will know with scientific certainty what conditions produce consciousness (and to what degree consciousness occurs in different brain structures). For now we rely on tests that, while certainly not perfect, provide us with a fairly good basis for attributing sentience. I think we tend to overattribute it, but it is clear in the case of the great apes that they share with us some of the “higher” mental attributes, including sentience. I see no justification for denying them certain basic moral rights.

  60. smacky,

    “Are we talking about the monkeys or the H&R commenters now?”

    I wondered the same thing!

    “I’ll agree with Ronald Bailey that an ape can get my respect for its rights when it agrees, without being coerced, to respect my rights.”

    Again, so a child has no rights? A severely retarded person has no rights? A severe schizophrenic has no rights? Talk about a slippery slope…

  61. “Our rights are not based on our species, but upon our abilities”

    Of course, most of the anti-nonhuman-rights advocates here base their position on just that: “We have rights just because we’re human.”

    The funny thing is that so many of them are “free-thinkers” (AKA smug atheists) who claim to have rejected all the magical nonsense of religion, but then buy hook-line-and-sinker into the irrational, baseless and speciesist anthropocentrism that defines the Western religions.

  62. I don’t understand why nobody has addressed the obvious question. If a chimp can be elected POTUS, doesn’t that automatically give them human rights?

  63. To paraphrase the New Testament, rights without responsibilities are dead.

    …rights are the flip side of responsibilities; we should be free to do things we can be held responsible for and we should be held responsible for everything we’re free to do.

    I’d argue that the very creation of rights has something to do with accepting responsibility for…blah, blah, blah.

    So anyway, when we start holding chimpanzees responsible for what they do, then we can start talking about recognizing their rights in law.

  64. Ken Shultz, its surprising to find you on this side of the issue.

  65. MikeT wrote:
    > If we grant animals a set of
    > real rights, analogous to human
    > rights, it’ll start us down the
    > slippery slope. How do you measure
    > sentience? There is no method
    > that I know of for doing that.

    Apes are clearly sentient (look up the definition in a dictionary). I’d like to hear your argument for why you are sentient but an ape is not, without resorting to human-centric arguments like recogniziging oneself in a mirror. (Apes can do this, anyway.)

    And not all slopes are bad–many have been quite necessary.

  66. So, what about atheist chimps? Poor ignorant godless creatures! Oh, the humanit – …never mind.

  67. When an ape can snatch this pebble from my hand, he will be ready to leave this place.

  68. There should be a continuum of recognized rights, from animals like dogs (which, despite being generally considered property, it is illegal to torture or otherwise grossly mistreated), to animals like human children (which are protected and controlled by others, but are not considered property and for which there are even more protections from mistreatment), to adult humans.

    Sentience is hard to measure, but a reasonable estimation can be made. As far as rights, we can get a good handle on the appropriate degree by comparison of the animal in question’s mental faculty to that of humans at various stages of development. I know that at least some primates and parrots (and probably dolphins) can be compared to children of at least a few years of age.

  69. And not all slopes are bad–many have been quite necessary.

  70. Recognizing monkeys’ rights would be like a guy menacing pedestrians with a loaded rifle, wouldn’t it?

  71. “Bee | April 4, 2007, 1:12pm | #
    So, what about atheist chimps? Poor ignorant godless creatures! Oh, the humanit – …never mind.

    Pro Libertate | April 4, 2007, 1:14pm | #
    When an ape can snatch this pebble from my hand, he will be ready to leave this place.”

    Chinese Downhill to determine the winner of this thread!!!!!

  72. BTW, there is no doubt that apes are sentient:

    sentience: That feels or is capable of feeling; having the power or function of sensation or of perception by the senses.

    That cannot be the only criterion by which we decide whether a species is worthy of being granted rights. Neither can self-awareness; that seems to be a fairly common attribute among animals.

    I’d say that the best criterion for having rights would be awareness of others. As far as I know, humans are the only species that displays this attribute. Being aware of other humans as beings equivalent to yourself is, to me, the prerequisite for rights. Think about humans who lack that awareness of others: sociopaths. They act as animals, essentially; very intelligent animals, but animals nonetheless.

    It is something along the lines of having responsibilities. Would we prosecute an ape for any crimes it might commit? If not, then I do not believe that we can grant apes rights.

  73. So long and thanks for all the fish…

  74. Oh, Poseidon, more comments from the dolphin lovers. Suggesting that they do things on porpoise, no doubt.

    Haven’t seen Day of the Dolphins on TV in a while, so I figure the government is suppressing it. Because we’re training thousands of crack, jumping squads for the Navy.

  75. Am I the only one who instantly remembered this classic from just one month ago? Talk about short attention spans!

  76. I’d say that the best criterion for having rights would be awareness of others. As far as I know, humans are the only species that displays this attribute.

    I don’t think that this is true. I am no expert, but many apes and dolphins and elephants seem to display such an attribute, and other animals do so to a lesser degree.

    Being aware of other humans as beings equivalent to yourself is, to me, the prerequisite for rights.

    Perhaps. But some animals seem to have this ability, at least to a degree.

    It is something along the lines of having responsibilities. Would we prosecute an ape for any crimes it might commit? If not, then I do not believe that we can grant apes rights.

    So because a chimp can’t be guilty of arson, the chimp hasn’t the right not to be beaten to death? I don’t see it.

  77. Again, so a child has no rights? A severely retarded person has no rights? A severe schizophrenic has no rights? Talk about a slippery slope…

    Some rights, but not the same rights. Children and people with severe mental handicaps have their decisions made for them by guardians; they have the right to not be abused by that person but they don’t really have individual rights.

  78. JimmyDaGeek,

    I missed that one, but it was predicted on Penn’s late radio show.

    Incidentally, feel the Florida flowing through you 🙂 You wouldn’t know that there was an NCAA championship from all of the silence around here. Congratulations to the Lady Vols, by the way. I was hoping that USF would cause a ruckus and hire her for its men’s team, but they went and got that guy from Arkansas.

  79. By her, I mean Pat Summitt.

  80. PL,

    I figured a Gator comment from you was coming sooner or later. Oh, well, at least I’m not a Buckeye fan 🙂

    At most, I figured Florida would win, but I was holding out a bit of hope for the Buckeyes.

  81. As were the officials. I read a presumably neutral Slate article saying the same thing, so it’s not just my Gatorness showing. This isn’t a unique phenomenon–the league seems to like to do this if a favorite shows up with too much oomph in its game. Oden can decapitate Florida players, and a Gator team that virtually never has foul trouble is almost overwhelmed with it.

    Not that I care that much–there’s always something to overcome, and it’s better to be gracious. I’ll take the win.

  82. Congratulations to the Lady Vols, by the way. I was hoping that USF would cause a ruckus and hire her for its men’s team, but they went and got that guy from Arkansas.

    If UTK had a men’s team Pat would be coaching them. For now, Pat coaches the women and some guy coaches the girls.

  83. Chimps can’t be all that smart, or they wouldn’t have agreed to appear in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

  84. ChrisO,

    That would be a good point, but then humanity is in trouble, too. I know I saw people in that film. Or were they apes in human suits?

  85. Once upon a time, I worked in the copy center of an office-supply store. An aspiring screenwriter would bring in his screenplays to be copied. One of them involved the very weighty issues surrounding a domesticated gorilla that had learned to communicate and play the piano in church: If she was sentient, then did she have a soul, and if she were baptized, would she go to heaven?

    It was hilarious.

  86. What’s with the Chinese bashing on this thread?

  87. in german, but gives a POV on this story (hold yer nose before clicky clicky, however!

    High#: because we’re taking a break from teasing cripples.

  88. You can tease the homeless on the thread on Bagge’s new comic. Isn’t that a little classier?

  89. bashing

    Is that the new spelling?

  90. High#:

    nah – I’ve been sticking to retahds hier

    oh – didja see Thome has homered (yeaa! he’s a favorite!!)

  91. A chink in the Wall,

    Despite your horrible name (maybe a little too far), funny!

    VM,

    Wow, talk about nutzoid-a-rama!
    Crazy ballgame. Wish I was watching it. Hate work. Love baseball.

  92. 3:49pm CST:

    top 8. Tribe has runners on 2nd and 3rd, no out. Leading 8-7. They’re walking the tribe dood (sic) right now.

  93. Tokyo done Rose again!

  94. I think I may have inadvertently started the China thing with my Kung Fu reference. I don’t bash the Chinese, myself, only their oppressive, corrupt, mean, communistesque government.

    Free Taiwan!

  95. One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans – closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses.

    What in hades? Are these people nuts? And these are scientists? What kind of crack are they smoking? Allow me to retort. Mice anyone? Mice share about 97% of their DNA with humans, are they gonna get human rights? Don’t take my word for it.

  96. Anyone else here flash back to Annette Funicello singing with the Beach Boys?

  97. Flash back? Like it ever stops?

  98. So what makes a severely mentally disabled human being who is less aware of himself and his surroundings than a chimpanzee more deserving of protection than a chimpanzee?

  99. “So what makes a severely mentally disabled human being who is less aware of himself and his surroundings than a chimpanzee more deserving of protection than a chimpanzee?”

    Maybe because he is a HUMAN BEING!

    Us…….them………it……

    priorities……..

  100. So what makes a severely mentally disabled human being who is less aware of himself and his surroundings than a chimpanzee more deserving of protection than a chimpanzee?

    The other 2 point something percent of the genetic makeup that renders him human rather than a chimp.

  101. Same thing that makes you a rights-holder when you’re asleep.

  102. Maybe because he is a HUMAN BEING!

    Or maybe that is a CIRCULAR ARGUMENT!

  103. Ethan,

    I have no sympathy for the other hominids. They had the chance to challenge us for world domination. They elected instead to sit around, eat berries, swing from trees, and fornicate. Losers. At least Homo sapiens neanderthalensis went down fighting.

  104. I think that everything on this planet has “rights”, and should be allowed to survive as species, if not individually. Of course this is totally not Okay with George Bush and company, who basically believe that if you are not rich, white, male, Christian, and Republican, the fact that you are a human being (and can recognize yourself in the mirror) is of no consequence.

  105. Also, on a lighter note, I certainly do believe that if chimps, Canadians, or others wish to fling feces, it MUST be done festively!

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