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Through a Window.

The community is Gombe, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Africa, where the principal residents are chimpanzees. One extraordinary woman also resides there for brief periods of time. She is their student, protector and historian. Through Jane Goodall, the author of Through A Window, we are privileged to look in upon our closest relative and learn how much our behavior approximates that of these primates.

In the mirror of chimpanzee life, Jane Goodall says, we see ourselves reflected. It is not that of a noble savage born in innocence. The world of the chimpanzee is bloodied by hatred, jealousy, war and murder.

There are, of course, species that are always peaceful, neither threatening nor harmful to other creatures and live quietly although their existence is constantly threatened. These are the herbivorous animals, the prey of every hungry meat-eater.

Chimpanzees, like humans, are omnivores. Killing is not foreign to their nature. Is this the link of our relationship?

The world of the chimpanzee is one of social bonding. They groom one another, cry out warnings when danger is imminent, and sometimes will brave danger when their young are threatened. They are also given to the passions and hostilities that characterize human society.

The plea that Goodall seems to make for the chimpanzees is that humans should recognize their stewardship, the inherent responsibility that we have to our fellow creatures. Her descriptions of kidnapping and incarceration of primates plucked from their habitats and families are of agony. For those who refuse to consider alternatives to animal testing and the horrendous brutality involved, Goodall's book cries out to those who are bystanders, and do not profit from torture.

She describes a visit to a testing laboratory in Austria where a group of chimpanzees she knew in the wild are being held for experimentation:

"For them, the outside world, the real world with trees and sky and the comfort of normal, friendly contact with other living beings, is gone forever.

"How can the people working in these chimpanzee prisons tolerate the conditions there? Are they without feeling, without compassion? Are they utterly lacking in understanding? Are they sadistic, delighting in their power and control over such large and potentially dangerous creatures?

"For one thing, most of them have absolutely no understanding of real chimpanzee behavior. They know only lab chimps, who are deprived of almost everything they need for their physical comfort and mental stimulation and are likely to be bad tempered.

"The scientists who design the experimental conditions under which their research is to be carried out forget they are dealing with living, sentient beings."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:433
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