"people started thinking in a new way ... about animals having feelings and feeling pain. The world opens up before you once you get out of this box that tells us animals don’t have these sorts of feelings"
Dr. Jane Goodall, the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees, is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the educational, activist programme Roots and Shoots. When she started her work, few in the scientific community were interested in or took seriously emotion and personality in animals other than ourselves. Her life’s work has had a huge impact on how both science and the general public think about other animals and environmental conservation.
These excerpts are taken from an interview Jane gave to The Dodo (full text of the article and interview available here).
When I first went to Cambridge University in 1961, there was no way I could have studied animal minds because animals didn’t have minds. I couldn’t have studied animal emotions; absolutely not; to even begin to think that animals might share emotions with us. I couldn’t have studied animal personalities because all those things were unique to us. You see that written again and again and again.
Gradually science has come around. You can study those things now. There are more books being written about morality in animals. There are more books being written about animal personalities. The idea that animals can actually think and solve problems is being proved so often.
… gradually all this information coming in from the field where animals are animals rather than in little cages in labs. This, I think, is what began to make people change their attitudes.
… things can be more easily shared with tweets and Facebook and all that sort of electronic information, it’s inevitable I think that the people would start thinking differently about animals.
There’s one thing about this changed attitude, and I meet it a lot when talking to people about intensive farming and so forth, and that is you start to tell them about what the animals endure and they don’t want to know. Sometimes they say, “oh, don’t tell me; I’m so sensitive and I love animals.” Then they go and eat a pork chop. The secret of how you get to people — you’ve got to get into their heart. I don’t think the head is much use in this situation.
On one hand a film, a movie, a video or whatever which only shows the wonderful nature — that tends to lull people into thinking there’s still a lot of nature left. When you come face-to-face with the individual animal, with the facts about so many rhinos being killed … it makes you angry.
On the one hand you’ve got the science out there now that shows that animals do have personalities, minds and feelings. On the other hand you are seeing animals face-to-face in these YouTubes.
It was innate in me, but could have been crushed by an uncaring, unsympathetic mother. When she found earthworms in my bed, instead of getting angry she just said they needed the earth and they would die and I was making them die and I cried. I was one and a half. We took them back into the garden.
But you see an awful lot of cruelty in children and hopefully there’s somebody to guide them and to help them understand that animals feel like we do. Lots of people, not just children, never get taught that. I know when I started talking about the chimpanzees and other animals in Tanzania in 1991 when we began Roots and Shoots people started thinking in a new way about that. They hadn’t thought about animals having feelings and feeling pain.