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Thursday, September 10, 2015

For What It's Worth

I consider my time valuable, and so is Bow's. Even when we are just taking a nap, that is our nap and our time. If someone wants us to do something other than take a nap, they have to pay us. If they want to watch us nap, the answer is "No, thank you".

Even when we are just going outside, that is also our experience, to write about and to share, or not. If someone wants to be able to write about it, too, they have to get our permission. 

Someone said to me the other day that it really does not matter whether I can prove that Bow is spelling on his own. What he is doing is very interesting, anyway, and people will want to watch that, and how about we put that on twenty-four hours a day on somebody else's website.

Well, first of all, it really does matter immensely whether Bow is spelling or not. It is my eventual goal to prove it. It will make a very big difference to our understanding of ourselves, of chimpanzees and even of what language actually consists of.

Secondly, would you volunteer to be filmed twenty-four hours a day without any moment of privacy? There have actually been documentary makers whom I turned down, because they wanted to film us, myself and the entire family, but they did not offer us any editorial control of their ultimate product, and they did not offer to pay us anything for our time. Who does that? Who gives away his time for nothing? Who abdicates total control over his life and how it is portrayed? I cannot imagine they would have found any takers among any self-respecting people. And I was not impressed by their claims that they were professionals, so they could not adulterate their work with my editing or make it seem as if they are biased by paying us. Really? Does it adulterate the cameraman when you pay him?

But it would be great exposure! they argued.

What possible good could come from that kind of exposure? Would you expose your child to that kind of scrutiny? Bow is very private. There are some things he will not do even in front of me. You can't assume that just because he is a chimpanzee you can film everything he does. And that goes for the rest of us, too.

There are people who claim that chimpanzees should be given the status of legal persons, but who will not offer to pay for the chimpanzees' time. There is something really wrong with that kind of thinking.

I don't claim legal person status for Bow, but I do think as his owner and his mother and the head of research for Project Bow, that if Bow does anything from which other people plan to profit, that Bow should be paid for his time. I think this in the same way that I believe that I should be paid for mine. And saying that it is not your company's mission to pay for people's time does not impress me. I bet you get paid for yours!


  1. A lot of the documentary makers edit things in a sensational way. I have heard of people complain they allowed documentary people to film them, and that of all the things they said, one moment in time is the only thing shown. Sometimes it is edited to make a statement look different than what it really was, as well.

    1. Hi, Julia. I have heard that, too. There is no such thing as bias free journalism, much less bias free documentaries.