The Spanish parliament's environment committee last week approved resolutions for chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans to gain some statutory rights currently applicable only to humans. It is thought to be the first time a national legislature has taken such action.

The resolutions, which passed with cross-party support and are expected to be approved as laws by the full parliament within a year, are based on the Great Ape Project, a framework designed by scientists and philosophers who believe that humans' closest biological relatives deserve the right to life, liberty and protection from torture.

The laws will ban potentially harmful research, ape trading, profiting from apes, and using apes in performances. Zoos could still legally hold apes, but living conditions must be “optimal”.