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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Extinction versus Immortality

I now understand a little better what the re-classification of domesticated chimpanzees by the Federal government means for the future of chimps in America. Up until now, I had been under the impression, due to news sources I had read, that the reclassification would mean one would have to get a license from the government in order to perform an invasive medical procedure on a chimpanzee. This was based on news reports I had read that stressed that the re-classification would lead to more humane treatment. And while it sounds confusing, as humane treatment for captives is not directly related to extinction,  it at least does not clash with the basic idea that the reason for classifying American chimpanzees as endangered was to keep people from hampering their reproductive output by temporarily altering their body chemistry or by sterilizing them. Since I had no plans to do anything like that to Bow, I did not feel threatened by this change, no matter how odd it was for Fish and Wildlife to regulate a mammal that is not native here and is only found under conditions of domestication, and therefore should not be listed as either endangered fish or endangered wildlife.

However, reading a blog post by an animal rights activist helped me to pinpoint what the pertinent portion of this rather tedious news report is. I will quote it here:

Certain activities involving chimpanzees will be prohibited without a permit, including import and export of the animals into and out of the United States, “take” (defined by the ESA as harm, harass, kill, injure, etc.) within the United States, and interstate and foreign commerce.
 Permits will be issued for these activities for scientific purposes that benefit the species in the wild, or to enhance the propagation or survival of chimpanzees, including habitat restoration and research on chimpanzees in the wild that contributes to improved management and recovery

This means that chimpanzees bred in Missouri cannot be sold outside of Missouri, unless a permit is obtained from "Fish and Wildlife" to do so for some scientific purpose or for propagation and habitat restoration abroad. However, just in case you think that this will put an end to inhumane medical research on chimpanzees, Fish and Wildlife assure us that:

The Service will work closely with the biomedical research community to permit biomedical research that must use chimpanzees as research subjects. 

In short, this will not help chimpanzees to escape medical torture at all, but it will effectively end the ability of chimpanzees to find work in the entertainment industry and placements in households where they would be treated as members of the family. Animal rights activists are happy about this, because their aim was never to save chimpanzees from the horrors of medical experimentation. They did not want chimps to be adopted by humans or to be gainfully employed in entertainment.

This will be a very big blow to breeders, and breeders are ultimately the only ones looking to help propagate the species in the United States. Since Fish and Wildlife are only responsible for extinctions in the US and not abroad, their reclassification will have exactly the opposite effect of their stated aim: It will ensure that domesticated chimpanzees will become extinct in the United States.

Propagation in captivity is paid for by people who buy chimpanzees. That is what immortalizes each breeding chimp and ensures the continuation of the species. Even when it turns out that a domestic buyer made a mistake and no longer can care for a chimpanzee, breeders allow the animal to be returned to its place of origin, so that it can participate in the breeding program. All of this happens privately and not at public expense.  Now it will no longer be possible.

Real immortality comes from making copies.  Traditionally, most people marry not for love, but so someone will share in and support their reproductive efforts. Authors seek to sell their books, not necessarily as a way to make a living, but as a way to reproduce their works indefinitely, until such time as they can have a real impact. Breeders make money, but their satisfaction in ensuring the continuation of the species they breed is a big part of their motivation. Buyers help them to keep breeding, even when buyers are less than perfect as caretakers. Architects build monuments to themselves at the expense of their clients. The client may not fully appreciate the architectural style, but if he pays for the expense of building, that is what matters to the architect. It is an arrangement of mutual benefit from which all forms of immortality spring: the creator and those who help him to keep creating.

I am not a breeder. I have no desire to become a breeder, but I am very grateful for the fact that breeders exist. I could not have achieved what I did with Bow if not for them. If something happens to me before I can make better arrangements, Bow will go back to the breeders, where he has other family members. But what if the breeders go out of business due to this change in the regulations?

When I started Project Bow, I wanted to distance myself from other chimpanzee owners. I am an ape language researcher. I am not somebody who bought a chimp because she thought it would be fun to play Tarzan or because she wanted a substitute for a human child. Some chimpanzee owners have very different motives from mine, and I naturally wanted to make the distinction  between us very clear.

But when this kind of thing is going on to undercut the very people and businesses that made my research possible, it would be wrong to stand on the side of academics who sold out to big government and look down on the people who support chimpanzee propagation in the US using their own hard earned money.  Who cares why they do it? They are the ones who are keeping chimps from going extinct, and they give them a place to live without torturing them with medical experimentation.

From  A Press Release Issued by the US GOVT Fish & WildLife Service
If you check out the press release linked here, you will see pictures and data provided by the Jane Goodall Foundation, and this statement:

The Service has funded $9.4 million in grants for conservation efforts to protect chimpanzees, matched by an additional $11.5 million in leveraged funds. These grants have supported field projects in 19 countries and include: developing conservation policies and local leadership and improving law enforcement to ensure the long-term survival and protection of chimpanzees and gorillas.
Does it make sense for an arm of the United States government in charge of fish and wildlife to give away millions of dollars to conservationists in other countries? As a United States taxpayer how do you feel about that? Should Jane Goodall get money from you so she can play with chimpanzees in Africa, while you are forbidden to have any chimpanzees of your own?

 My goal in almost everything I do, is for a long range result that will outlive any immediate concerns that I have. This is true about Bow, too. I am not in this for the short term. I want Bow's progeny to live on long after I am dead. I don't want them enslaved to medical research, but the only other way is to live in a free country where citizens can decide what to do with their own money.

Even though I hate the word "sanctuary", as it is currently used as a dead end for American chimpanzees, I want to create a real sanctuary for chimpanzees here in Missouri that will allow them to keep breeding without having their babies subject to medical research. Ironically, my desire to do this is exactly the thing that sets me in conflict with animal rights activists. My hope is that if enough people read this, they will contact their representatives, and Fish and Wildlife will be forced to change their decision.

Many citizens do not care one way or another about chimpanzees. But surely they must care about their own government selling them out to foreigners!

Keep in mind, the people and their representatives never got a chance to vote on this. A few years ago, animal rights activists sought to pass a law through Congress preventing chimpanzees from traveling from one state to another. That law was never passed, because nobody but a few activists wanted it. Now they have used an arm of the executive branch of the government to achieve the same legislative result. Is this constitutional? Is it right? Is it good for chimpanzees? For the economy?  Only you can decide.


  1. Letters to the editors of Missouri papers or oped submissions might be accepted. Congressmen might respond. Litigation would be costly.

    1. Litigation is out of the question, I think, as I have no reason to believe the courts are more virtuous than the Fish & Wildlife Service. Speaking to one's representatives I think would be the most effective path to take, and I agree that finding a outlet to then local press would help.

  2. I think you ask some very good questions here.

    1. Thanks, Julia. I appreciate your thinking so,

  3. It's the old adage - "first they came for, and I said nothing, then they came for ...def, and I said nothing...". If we don't stand up for each other's rights, whether we agree with them or not, no one will be left to stand up for what matters to us.
    I'm not sure what the answer is anymore. It seems like daily, our freedoms are being stripped away...

    1. Hi, Kathy.Yes, it is just like that adage. I have trouble motivating people to care, because they think it does not affect them. I do think there is a reason why our representatives in and from Missouri should take heed to this issue, because it will curtail revenue to this state. But why we have to fight over each right separately and in such a divided way, I don;t know. You would think everyone in the US would cry out when the Federal government gets involved in something that is not its concern and spends government money abroad. That affects people not in Missouri and who have no interest in chimpanzees. Why can't we all at least agree about that?

  4. I agree - we should all be crying out when the feds try to get involved in anything. Isn't the term, "creeping socialism"?
    And how do they enact that....? They get us all fighting over a stupid piece of cloth - such as the confederate flag issue - and enact some more laws while the masses are distracted. I don't know to what can they really want the responsibility of a "nanny" state? I either don't understand their goals, or I don't understand (yet) how they'll manage all this, once they get us there - under complete control. I always try to take the Occam's Razor approach, and I've asked myself this question several times - why and to what end? If you have a non-producing society (such as they have in Greece), who will pay the bills then??? Have we learned nothing from other countries??

    1. How do they enact that? Apparently it was an internal decision from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. They were lobbied directly by foreign interests.