Mojo Mathers and animal welfare – now she wants the law to protect the great apes

Have nominations closed for the co-leader's job?

Have nominations closed for the co-leader’s job?

Mojo Mathers is mouthing off about an amendment she has put up to the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill.

This legislation was introduced to Parliament two years ago.

It aims to make changes to the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to improve the enforceability, clarity, and transparency of the country’s animal welfare system.

It would implement the Government’s decisions resulting from a 2011–2012 review of the Act but does not seek to alter appropriate fundamental principles and policy settings.

The proposed amendments would provide for…

* Clear and enforceable standards of welfare for animals, including live animals for export;

* Increase the range of enforcement tools for small to medium-scale offending;

* Clarify the obligations of animal-owners;

* Make decision-making under the Act more transparent; and

* Allow welfare standards to evolve with societal expectations.

The Bill has been through the select committee process and some revisions have been suggested by the committee.

But Mojo isn’t satisfied.

You will find eight supplementary order papers in her name.

Now she is banging on about the need to prohibit the killing of great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans).

Her reasoning is that …

Great apes are our closest relatives and are as intelligent as human toddlers, with diverse personalities, complex emotions and mental traits once considered uniquely human, such as self-awareness, empathy and even rudimentary language, math and artistic abilities.

Alf points out that the Grumbles by no means are related to great apes.

But he acknowledges that people who join the Green Party may well be related.

Alf also points out that he can’t recall much of an inclination among New Zealanders to kill great apes.

He could see no point in the Animal Welfare Act being the first in the world to ban harmful research on apes.

Mojo sees many points and is claiming:

That ban was widely hailed, and spurred efforts in other countries to get similar bans. However, apes are still being exploited, abused and killed, both in captivity and in the wild.

Examples of cruelty, neglect and abuse abound. Apes are still exploited for experimentation, entertainment and tourist trophies. While New Zealand zoos generally treat their captives well, we have no law to prevent the convenience-killing of apes when they are no longer useful or become or too costly. A ban on the taking of ape life, except in self-defence or to relieve untreatable suffering, as my amendment does, would close this loophole.

In the half century since Jane Goodall first observed wild chimpanzees making simple tools, caring for their sick, grieving for their dead, hunting cooperatively and fighting territorial wars, many more scientists have shown that the great apes – whose genes are 97-99% identical to ours -are more “human” than we ever thought. As well as being highly intelligent, they share with us the same blood groups, similar pregnancy terms and life-spans and vulnerability to many of the same diseases*, including mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Tragically, wild great ape populations have plummeted. Some now face extinction within the next few decades. To save them, a major attitude shift is needed – one that recognises and respects the intrinsic value of every ape life, much as our Marine Mammals Protection Act enshrines the intrinsic value of individual marine mammal lives.

And that gives us a strong clue to what really is Mojo’s motiaation.

She wants us to be a world-leader.

By supporting my amendment, New Zealand could take a leading role on this issue and once again set an example for the world to follow.

One thing at a time is Alf’s advice.

It’s nice being a world leader, but let’s take things at a manageable pace.

Our immediate objective should be to win the cricket World Cup.

The apes can wait.

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