Jane Goodall, defender of people

I think we can all hope to be as eloquent and humanistic (in the broadest sense of the term human) as Jane Goodall. From The Edmonton Journal:

Apes are people, too
Jane Goodall, Freelance

In the couple of months since the historic Spanish parliament resolution granting certain rights to great apes, the ensuing debate has taken a wrong turn. As commentators have become mired in the nuances of what rights are appropriate for apes or any other non-human animal, we have lost sight of the central concern — that we continue to use great apes in invasive research, as well as entertainment and advertising, in ways that are unnecessarily harmful and often downright cruel to these amazing creatures.

Like Spain, other countries have recognized this fact. Australia, Austria, Holland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have already banned or severely restricted invasive research on great apes. While we may not agree on how to get there, there’s a growing consensus around the world that we need to go in this direction.

Over the past century a wealth of information has been uncovered regarding the behaviour and biology of great apes. We now know with absolute certainty that great apes share many of the same psychological, social, and emotional characteristics as humans. Taking these findings into account, we can no longer turn a blind eye to their inhumane treatment.

For years great apes have been used in inappropriate and irresponsible ways. Invasive research on great apes continues, despite the suffering it inflicts and the growing abundance of alternative non-animal testing methods. The use of great apes in the entertainment and advertising industry also persists, regardless of the heavy toll it exacts on both captive and wild great apes.

What most people do not realize is that performing apes must be taken from their mothers as infants. The premature separation of an infant from its mother can often lead to long-term social and psychological damage. Additionally, entertainment apes have a very short shelf life in the industry. They only remain manageable until they mature, around the age of eight, yet captive great apes can live from 50 to 60 years.

Once performing apes are no longer manageable on the entertainment set, they often end up in inappropriate and inhumane living conditions — a roadside zoo, a biomedical research lab, or a breeder compound where the cycle is repeated.

Researchers have found that people who are accustomed to seeing chimpanzees mimicking humans in television programs, advertising and film may be misled into believing that chimpanzees are not endangered. The misconception that chimpanzees are not endangered negates efforts to raise public awareness and commitments toward their conservation, a consequence that we cannot afford at such a critical juncture, for chimpanzees and all the great apes, once abundant, are now on the verge of extinction. This is due in large measure to the loss of forest habitat from commercial logging, mining and biofuel operations, as well as growing numbers of people in great ape ranges who lack basic needs.

The Spanish parliament’s action serves as a reminder that we must press forward to protect the natural habitats of great apes in Africa and Asia. There is so much to be done.

Primate researcher Jane Goodall is founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace.