Our phoney sentiments for animals

Only when cruelty becomes media-fodder do the British remember that they are animal-lovers

HAVE YOU been to Monkey World yet? The word is that this popular hang-out for primates in Dorsetshire has recently been inundated with visitors eager to see Trudy, the chimpanzee who was so cruelly misused by that Cruella de Vil of the moment, Mary Chipperfield.

The roads leading to Monkey World apparently throng with cars bearing "Save Trudy" stickers. Outside the cage where the little creature now lives with her new family, under the care of her adoptive mother Peggy and alpha male Roger, families gather to gawp and gurgle while journalists of the damp Kleenex school squeeze out the kind of gooey, saccharine prose normally reserved for tragic tug-of-love toddlers.

"Trudy went indoors and flopped in the sawdust and the air from the central heating vents sent a sleepy warmth swirling around her," went one account. "Peggy nudged her until her tired little head fell comfortably against her chest. Roger looked down from his perch. His family was safe." Meanwhile the Daily Mail's "Safe Home for Trudy" petition has proved to be a great hit among readers.

Somehow the news that the HIV virus originated from one of Trudy's distant cousins in west Africa, once hunted and eaten as bush meat, has pointed up the absurdity of our new phoney sentimentality towards animals. The same type of family punter who visits Monkey World to see primates in cages will also have chortled with pleasure at the sight of dolphins jumping through hoops in some nightmarish pleasure park, and of elephants standing on stools in a circus - perhaps Chipperfield's circus. One of the most successful TV advertisements of recent years has featured chimpanzees whose apparently human grins and grimaces are, in fact, expressions of stress and fear.

It is only when cruelty becomes visible media-fodder that the British remember that they are animal-lovers. So the mistreatment of a donkey in some distant country - beaten, starved, or dropped from the top of a tower for obscure religious reasons - can cause an uproar, while the incomparably more inhumane practice of battery farming in our own country goes unnoticed. After all, we are not obliged to see the means of meat production, merely to benefit from it in our supermarkets. Those enraged by the idea of a fox being hunted and killed are utterly indifferent to the depredation of the countryside through intensive farming, the ever- accelerating decline of mammal, bird and insect species caused by the grubbing of hedgerows by agribusiness and subsidy-crazed farmers. On the whole, we prefer to be concerned about a little wounded hedgehog that plucks the heartstrings of millions of viewers on one of Rolf Harris's vet shows.

But there's something particularly unnerving and creepy about contemporary attitudes to the great apes with whom, as we are constantly reminded, we share all but 2 per cent of our genetic make-up.

Thanks to the efforts of evolutionary scientists, we have begun to see chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans as honorary humans, uncontaminated by civilisation - a late-20th-century version of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's noble savage. There are earnest campaigns to grant the upper primates the same moral rights under law as human beings. In various American universities, academics bully luckless chimpanzees into some form of communication that is recognisable to Homo sapiens.

Of course, the connections may well be there. One study, reported in Robert Wright's The Moral Animal, suggested that promiscuity in human females falls somewhere between that of chimpanzees and gorillas: the tendency of women visiting a singles bar around the time of ovulation to wear more make-up and jewellery than at other times is the equivalent of the vivid genital display of female chimps.

Doubtless, there are those who will see the astonishing randiness of bonobos, or pygmy chimps, who use casual and random sex as a form of social bonding, as justifying similar behaviour in the human world.

But, together, evolutionary theory and the proliferation of wildlife programmes seem to have distorted our view of the natural world. We are not as other animals. On the whole, we do not kill younger members of our social groupings if they are sired by rival males, as gorillas do sometimes; nor do we hunt down members of close species to our own in the way that chimpanzees do to colobus monkeys.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to see upper primates in the wild are left in no doubt of the vast gap represented by that small genetic difference. In fact, when I saw a group of gorillas, habituated to the presence of humans, in the Virunga mountains of what was then Zaire, it was the behaviour of the human tourists, posing in front of the great silverback as if she were a guard outside Buckingham Palace, that seemed odd.

Even there, a process of domestication, of Trudification, seemed to be taking effect.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss