I was hoping this subject would go away. It affects me and my family directly. Someone wants to pass a law that will make it illegal for us to leave this state. I know which direction this is headed. The next thing they will try to do is to make it illegal for us to live here also. Then we will not be able to leave or live. When you find out that you are targeted, then sometimes the first instinct is to lie low and not draw attention. Maybe they'll forget we exist. Maybe they'll pass us over. Maybe if we mark the door with blood, the angel of death will take somebody else's son and not mine.
But that's the wrong way to go, The right thing to do is to speak up.
Home Movie Clip
Bow turned seven on February 16th. We had a nice party for him, and he enjoyed the day. The following day, we found out that in Connecticut a woman had been mauled by a chimp. The next thing you know a new bill has been proposed, limiting the rights of primate owners -- and of the primates who depend on them.
While Bow has always lived in the state of his birth, when we were younger, we did travel together, crossing many state borders and going on long road trips. The destinations included grandma's house and a few university towns where I attended linguistics conferences. The pending legislation would have made all those trips impossible.
It would also mean that if I wanted to take a job out of state, I would not be able to do so, It would mean that if I wanted to move to another state for the sake of my daughter's education, I could not do so.
To be honest, I have no real intention of moving. Maybe I am blowing the significance of this particular legislation all out of proportion in terms of what it would mean for me and my family. Maybe it will hardly touch us. But it feels really bad to know that we are being targeted, and that our options and choices are being slowly whittled away.
- WashingtonWatch.com - S. 462, The Captive Primate Safety Act
U.S. Congress: S. 462, The Captive Primate Safety Act
The Text of the Bill
I do ape language research and Bow is not a pet. From a legal perspective, however, Bow and I have no special privileges. We have no institutional support. I am not a zoo, a primate sanctuary or even an established breeder. I don't have any special license or permit. I chose to live in a country and a state where primate legislation is the least intrusive. I don't want to join an institution, nor do I think that institutional affiliation would shield me and Bow from the long arm of those who hope to drive all chimpanzees into sanctuaries, where they are expected to live out their lives, waiting to die, and producing no young. I know what happened to Sally Boysen and her apes. Being an established, tenured professor does not guarantee safety for the apes you know and care for.
Are chimpanzees dangerous? Of course, they are. Can they kill or maim? The answer is yes. So do humans, horses, dogs and many other domestic animals. Is keeping a chimpanzee in the home a good idea for every family? Of course not. If you do have a chimpanzee, does this require taking special precautions to make sure innocent bystanders aren't hurt? Yes, it does. I've taken those measures, not because I was forced to do so by others, but because I am a responsible person, and I don't want anybody to be hurt.
When you engage in a dangerous activity, you have to use reasonable precautions. You don't shoot aimlessly into a crowd of people, and then blame the gun for going off. If you are not capable of exercising control over the danger, then you should not engage in the activity.
In every life, danger is unavoidable, but different activities involve differing levels of risk. We have a choice to engage in or desist from highly dangerous activities. That choice should be made by the individual. In a country where everyone is protected from all forms of danger, people couldn't ski, or hang-glide, go skateboarding or race speedy cars. They couldn't fly private planes or build rockets in their garage. They couldn't experiment with novel combinations of herbs or chemicals to cure disease. They couldn't do research, unless someone in a high place had okayed it first. They couldn't arrive at difficult decisions about their own family and its priorities, before getting the okay of a committee or a government overseer.
When people hear that I do ape language research, they often assume that I must be liberal. Well, I am liberal, in the sense that I have an open mind, an open heart and boundless curiosity about the world we live in. I am not, however, the kind of liberal that wants to pass more laws to make the world safer and safer until all danger disappears -- and life along with it.
If you support Project Bow, please write to your Senator and ask him or her to vote against the Captive Primate Safety Act.
My book: When Sword Met Bow
Link to List of Senators
- U.S. Senate: Senators Home