Post Election 2016: What Next?

Over the past few weeks, friends and colleagues from around the world have written to express concern about what the results of the US presidential election might mean for all of us who care passionately about every aspect of JGI’s work – conservation, animal welfare, peace, human rights and wellbeing and environmental education. I absolutely share their concern. I am writing today to call on each of you, my friends and colleagues, to maintain hope, whilst being prepared to work even harder to do what is right for people, other animals and Planet Earth. And be prepared to stand up and speak out for our beliefs. For if we lose hope we shall sink into apathy – then all will be lost.

It has been suggested that when Mr. Trump becomes president he might rethink some of these issues. Will Donald Trump, the President of the United States, be a different person from Donald Trump, the presidential candidate? Will Mr. Trump reach out to half the U.S. voters that were not his supporters, in an attempt to unify the country? We can only hope for the best, hope for a change of heart as he contemplates his tremendous power for helping to save our planet for the future – his youngest child is only 10 years old – and his equally tremendous power to inflict untold damage.

If he decides on the former, we must stand ready to support him. If the latter, we must be ready to work together, without the support of government, to carry on our work. There is some hope in the fact that, in the wake of the election, 365 corporations and investor groups came together to urge Mr. Trump to keep the US commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. These business leaders are urging responsible action not only because they know it is the right thing to do for the planet, but also because they know it is in the interest of their companies to do so. Their customers – the general public worldwide – increasingly understand that we can and must address climate change. As members of that general public, we must make our voices heard.

I think it is important to ask ourselves why Mr. Trump was elected. It seems that many pro-Trump votes were cast by people who felt betrayed by successive administrations – which was, incidentally, the root cause of the Brexit vote in the UK. Certainly in the US, the UK, and many other countries, there are large sections of the population that feel marginalized, see few opportunities for improving their lives and getting good jobs. Certainly there is much racial and religious and even class discrimination, that has given rise to resentment, even hatred, and increasing violence. And certainly the gap between the haves and the have-nots has been gradually widening, as have the differences between people living in urban and rural areas. For these and other reasons, thousands of people are desperate for change. It is very important that we understand and address some of their legitimate concerns. Indeed, NGOs have, in so many cases, taken over work that was originally considered to be the responsibility of governments.

If we, who care, get together we can try to find ways of advancing our common agenda — to, for example, offer environmental education in all schools, or offer innovative programs to engage and inspire disadvantaged youth. To work in the growing sectors that are turning the power of nature – the sun, wind, tides and so on – into clean energy. Or the growing imaginative ways of reusing, recycling our mountains of waste. Small scale, local farming, community-based services that provide care for the young and the old, those who fix things so we don’t need to buy new things – mechanics, electricians, carpenters – all offer the chance for knowledge to be passed now, informally, to help create a new generation of respected, important and fairly compensated members of the community.

We at JGI, along with so many others, have been working so hard to make this a better world. I travel 300 days a year, talking to hundreds of thousands of people, assuring everyone that, if we get together and make wise decisions in our daily lives, we can at least slow down climate change and eventually reverse the destruction of the natural world. With Roots & Shoots in nearly 100 countries, with well over 100,000 active groups of all ages, and many “alumni” already out in the world, there are already huge numbers of people who believe change is possible. These young people understand that each of us makes some difference – every day. We all have a choice as to what sort of difference we make.

And so, if we all come together with determination and increased solidarity, we can surely find ways to carry on with our work no matter what happens. I have absolute faith in the indomitable human spirit.

WE CAN – nay, we MUST – PREVAIL.

- Dr. Jane Goodall.

JGI & Zoos

I sometimes think, as I watch a compatible group of chimpanzees in a large exhibit in a well run, well funded zoo, that I would probably trade my freedom for that life if I lived in constant fear of losing my forest home, suffering the agony of tight wire around my hand, or having my mother shot. In other words, a good zoo can provide a home for animals that may be preferable to many places in the wild. And which is, of course, infinitely preferable to a life of servitude in medical research laboratories or entertainment (circus, movies, advertising). 

Dr. Jane Goodall

In an ideal world all animals would live free in the wild, safe from interference by human beings. The sad reality is that neither chimpanzees nor humans live in an ideal world. The Jane Goodall Institute recognizes that it will take a global community of governments, conservation agencies, local people, youth, zoos and many others to make the commitment, create a change, and align in our work to conserve the world’s wildlife.

Children can learn about wild animals by watching films, but can this really compare with standing opposite a living chimpanzee and looking into his or her eyes, sensing the presence of a living, sapient and sentient Being? Such a special interaction with a chimpanzee (or other wild animal) can have a powerful effect on both child and adult observers. And thus realize how important it is to protect them and their forest homes in Africa. Chimpanzees in zoos can serve as ambassadors for their species in the wild and assist in raising awareness for the need to help conservation in Africa. All zoos should have education programs about the plight of animals in the wild and contribute a percentage of their revenues for conservation efforts in the wild.

JGI NZ & Dr. Jane on NZ's Predator Free Objective

Invasive alien species have a particularly devastating effect on isolated ecosystems and are a clear cause of species extinction. Island states are clearly the most vulnerable. The issues raised are never straightforward and legitimate arguments can be raised both for and against direct intervention.

When confronted by a risk to native species caused by introduced predator species all non-lethal options must be considered before a policy of euthanasia against any species is considered. Every species, native or recently introduced, has an inalienable right to life which JGI should be prepared to fearlessly protect.

If a lethal option has to be pursued it should be done in the most humane manner possible in order to minimise the stress and suffering caused to the introduced species both as regards individual animals and the population as a whole.

It will never be appropriate for Roots & Shoots groups to be directly or indirectly involved in directly assisting with any lethal option. Whilst a central requirement of any Roots & Shoots group is to ensure education and information as to the issues raised and the solutions proposed, Roots & Shoots member under the age of 16 should not be asked to raise money directly for such options nor become indirectly involved, such as being involved in the trapping of animals who are to be subject to euthanasia.

Great Apes in Entertainment

JGI is opposed to using chimpanzees in advertising and entertainment for welfare and conservation reasons and for the dignity of the species. Although performing chimpanzees may appear to happy, the truth about their welfare is often hidden.

  • Chimpanzees are strikingly similar to humans. Our DNA is about 99% the same. Our behaviours and emotions are very similar. Like us, chimpanzees are sentient animals. That means, they have the capacity to experience pleasure and pain.
  • Performing chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at a very young age. This causes tremendous emotional and psychological distress to the mother as well as to the infant.
  • Trainers frequently use fear and physical discipline to control their apes and the degree of force increases as the apes grow. This continues until they’re about 8 years old and too dangerous to work with.
  • When their careers are over, the luckier ones end up burdening sanctuaries. Others end up in poor conditions in roadside zoos or are used as breeders to continue the cycle, spending the rest of their lives (about 50 years) in a cage. There is no humane or sustainable retirement plan for them.
  • Conditions during a commercial production may be monitored, but there is no way to guarantee how apes are treated when they are not “working”.
  • The use of chimpanzees and other Great Apes in advertising and entertainment is contrived and creates misleading and degrading perceptions of these magnificent animals, who are seriously endangered in the wild.
  • Research shows that people associate the use of chimpanzees in advertising with a healthy wild population. Public perception is that if chimpanzees were endangered, they would not be used for commercial purposes. Such perception is in stark contrast to the current situation in the wild, where Great Ape populations are seriously declining due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, disease, bush meat trade and the pet trade.
  • Performing apes are often youngsters. Audiences see cute, cuddly human-like animals and might form the impression they are easily handled. Such images make young apes popular as pets in some countries.

How can you help?

  • Raise awareness about the use of Great Apes in entertainment and advertising and the impact on them
  • Contact companies that use animals in such a way to let them know that it is unexceptable 
  • Contact us if you would like a Roots & Shoots representative visit your class or contact your school
  • Produce a poster on the use of animals, includeing Great Apes, in entertainment

Dr. Jane - A Vegetarian

Dr. Jane is indeed a vegetarian. She became a vegetarian after reading about intensive farming, not knowing about what the animals actually went through. The next time she looked at a piece of meat, Dr. Jane thought, this symbolizes fear, pain and death.