Animal Activist

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I’ve been an animal lover all of my life (after overcoming being terrorized by a large dog thumbnail_Koko1when I was four,) and became an animal rights advocate after seeing “Born Free,” one of my favourite films, and the reason that I attended a talk given by the film’s stars, Virginia McKenna and her husband, Bill Travers, founders of the Born Free Foundation.

Over the years, I gave talks to schools and organizations, introducing the BFF’s outstanding role in exposing the cruelty long-hidden by zoos and circuses, and with my husband, Arthur, investigated zoos and circuses with the goal of forcing them to make changes to how the animals in their care were treated.

Recently, you may have heard that a lowland gorilla named Koko died at age 46.  Famous for having “learned” over 2000 words in English using a form of sign language, Koko and her keeper “conversed” on a daily basis.  Born in the San Francisco zoo, Koko made headlines when she adopted a kitten as a pet.

I, along with other activists, are strongly opposed to the claims of those who use captive animals to “prove” their intelligence by a one-way traffic of the animal being trained to respond to the English language and the keeper learning nothing of the animal’s own.

To this day, after years of researchers using captive animals to investigate their thumbnail_Koko2copyconnection to humans, there isn’t a single instance of the roles being reversed and the humans learning the animal’s language.  From dolphins and whales to elephants and birds, humans have trained them to respond to their commands but remain ignorant of the creatures’ own languages.

Clearly, the time has come for a new way of thinking about the animals we share our planet with as well as paying equal respect for their rights.

I’d appreciate hearing what you think about this or any other matter affecting the well-being of  animals, domestic or in the wild.

“The Doctor Will See You Now, said the Nurse to the Goose.”

No, this isn’t from “Alice in Wonderland,” but a new and growing trend of medical students working side by side with veterinarians to treat animals.
The programme is a joint effort of the Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Franklin Park zoo, intended to reinforce the fact that animals and humans share more than the same environment.  While many of the students grew up with pets, none of their medical school training Incorporated the physical similarities and differences all animals have in common with humans, and how recent research has proved there is so much more to learn from animals that is just now beginning to benefit human health.
Each student spends a month at the zoo under the supervision of a vet. Student surveys show that the programme has been an enormous success, with the doctors-to-be coming away with questions they had never anticipated about the intersection of humans and their animal counterparts.
As the news of the collaboration between vets and med students spreads internationally, one immediate benefit is evident, that animals are on their way to being thought of and treated with a new respect for being just that — animals.
For all you pet owners, you might think of having a conversation about this trail-blazing programme with your vet on the next visit, with and eye toward expanding its reach.   From little acorns…………
I’d love to hear your comments about this and all other animal matters.
Email your comments to





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