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I’ve been an animal lover all of my life (after overcoming being terrorized by a large dog when 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 connection 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.