Sunday, August 16, 2009

Perverted Primates

And not only the primates. The elephants are being perverted too. You can read about their perverted acts in The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals by Charles Siebert.

The chimpanzees and orangutans have been deliberately perverted for amusement and experiments by the most perverted and dangerous primate of them all: in television shows and commercials (until they reach more than a few years of age and are no longer controllable), in circuses and zoos, by psychologists turning chimps into family members until they get tired of them, by scientists still deliberately infecting them with human diseases; it's a long and ugly list.

Elephant perversion, such as their increased violent behavior and the raping of rhinos, is simply a byproduct of the destruction of their social groups and territories by, well, you know who. This section of the book features Gay Bradshaw, an expert in animal trauma who has a book
titled Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity coming out in October, and Eve Abe, a Ugandan animal ethologist who draws parallels between the breakdowns in elephant and human societies.

Advocates of legal rights for animals might be interested to read that until about a century ago animals were sometimes put on trial--however, not being judged by their peers, it usually didn't end well for the accused. Victims of bestiality were killed for being too enticing and elephants were hung for murder. Meanwhile, Thomas Edison publicly electrocuted animals on a regular basis in an attempt at personal gain of currency.

The book contains several of these interesting historical and present events within an added for dramatic effect framework (a night spent with one chimp) which seems to go nowhere during most of the book but pays off in a big emotional finish. All of this is to serve what the epilogue calls the book's central premise--"the degree to which we humans will finally stop abusing other creatures and, for that matter, one another will ultimately be measured by the degree to which we come to understand how integral a part of us all other creatures actually are." Modern humans need to relearn what earlier societies knew--we're not the only people on the planet. Chimps and elephants and all the others live here too.

There's also a bit of science throughout the book such as the similarities of brains of various species, the increased acknowledgment of various personalities within each species, and that damaged individuals, non-human as well as human, can improve with proper treatment and conditions. The book's title comes from the location of one of the places trying to repair the damage, The Center for Great Apes. Other organizations featured in the book include Chimp Haven and Save the Chimps.

I don't know why you were diverted,
You were perverted too.
George Harrison


Northland said...

Interesting and so sad to read this review. I have been reading the compendium "Wild Earth" this morning and after reading your blog-review, my mood matches this gray Keweenaw day... not that I don't feel positive about getting rain after the heat wave. The dry earth is drinking in the rain!

greentangle said...

I actually didn't find the book depressing to read, but maybe that just shows something depressing about me. Horrifying at times, but not one of those endless unabated lists of examples of abuse. Since the author's heart was in the right place, and there were other people trying to help the critters, it was OK. Twas a pleasant sunny day in St Paul yesterday.