Right of Reply: Alison Cronin
The scientific director of Monkey World answers Terence Blacker's article on attitudes to animal welfare
Wednesday 03 February 1999
First, if Mr Blacker had ever visited Monkey World then he would know that Trudi, the rescued chimpanzee, like all our apes, does not live in a cage, but in a two-acre enclosure.
Second, Mr Blacker quotes the much-publicised recent scientific research that claims that West African chimpanzees are where Aids started. However, these findings seem to me to be very shaky, as they are based on a very small number of chimps - three - found carrying the disease out of a population of many thousands. The exact transmission mechanism of HIV to humans is also left unclear in the accounts of this so-called breakthrough. I am not convinced.
However, most importantly, Mr Blacker is wrong to suggest that the British public is too sentimental about animals - what he calls "Trudification". In fact the British public rightly wants to be informed about the kind of cruelty that Mary Chipperfield was engaged in. The media should highlight it. And, of course, Animal Defenders, the group that investigated the abuse, deserves credit.
Above all, there is a need for better legislation on the welfare of circus animals. Compared to those for zoo animals the guidelines for inspections are rather vague. In this country you can own any animal you like. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act is too weak. It still allows people to own chimps, tigers and other wild animals with only the say-so of a local vet and the local health and safety authorities. Only when the law is changed will chimps such as Trudy have a chance of humane treatment.
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