The Jane Goodall Act

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Jane Goodhall and friend

NEWS AND VIEWS: Jane Goodall is known worldwide and is internationally respected as a primatologist and anthropologist. She is one of the best known animal advocates on the planet and she will please a lot of people concerned with animal welfare today because she is supporting new Canadian legislation proposed by Sen Murray Sinclair which goes to the heart of the human-animal relationship in that it bans keeping great apes and elephants in captivity. The Senator has named it the Jane Goodhall Act. He’s a great admirer.

Jane Goodhall and friend

Jane Goodhall and friend a chimpanzee. Photo: Fernando Turmo/The Jane Goodall Institute.

If and when it is passed by the Canadian legislature, it will also ban the use of these two species for entertainment purposes such as elephant rides. There are more than 20 elephants in captivity in Canada, 16 of which are at the Ontario-based African Lion Safari where they use them for entertainment and to carry people around the 750 acre estate. About this, Jane Goodall said: “I gather that in Canada they actually use them for entertainment and giving tourists rides. That’s very insulting, really, very demeaning to their role in our lives”.

There are also 33 great apes in captivity in Canada namely, nine chimpanzees, 18 gorillas and six orangutans. The new legislation would not “have had a hope in hell of passing” 20 years ago according to Jane Goodall. Indeed, it reflects a change in attitude which is hugely welcome to animal advocates.

Sen Murray Sinclair

Sen Murray Sinclair. Photo: AP Photo/Canadian Press.

Goodall says that “humans around the world accept that animals are sentient beings, there is a growing call for improved living conditions and treatment of captive animals”. She believes that caging and confining creatures such as apes and elephants, and indeed other animals, is tantamount to torture. There are too many shoddy facilities were captive animals are indeed tortured in substandard conditions.

This legislation would make it a criminal offence to own a great ape or an elephant or to breed the animals except under certain limited conditions such as for “non-harmful scientific research”, and when it might be necessary in the interests of the animal’s welfare. Zoos will be able to keep their current animals (I guess that this will be until they die of old age or illness).

The bill is wide-ranging in that it also addresses the question of the importation of elephant ivory and hunting trophies which would be banned. It bans the importing or exporting of any items containing or partly or fully made up of elephant ivory or any other part of an elephant with some very limited exceptions.

CBC.ca tells me that between 2007 and 2016 Canada imported 400 elephant skulls and 260 elephant feet. In 1930 there were about 10 million elephants in Africa and today there are 400,000. They are being abused, used, poached and destroyed out of humankind’s distorted desire to kill and possess. It is quite a remarkable aberration in humankind’s psyche. Goodall cannot understand how people can do it. She said:

I have struggled and struggled to understand how anybody could go out and see this beautiful animal and do this. I’m thinking, “You are twisted. You’re crazy”. It’s so awful how we treat animals.

It’s wonderful to see Canada leading the way here. Although Canada appears to me to have a rather bad history of sport hunting. They like to kill their animals don’t they? So it seems quite exceptional that they can lead the way in this respect in animal welfare. Good for them but I’d like to see them cut back on their habit of shooting wild species in their own country.