Jane Goodall-Andrew Knight
Grateful for the Inspiration
I first met Jane in 2006 at an animal welfare and conservation conference in Lisbon. One evening, we all boarded buses and travelled far into the countryside to a very pretty restaurant for the conference dinner. I recall white-draped tables with candles and lots of vines growing up pretty stonework. It was beautiful. It was actually my birthday that day, and I secretly pretended the whole dinner, all those wonderful people, and best of all--Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff--were there just for me. I was thrilled to get a group photo with about six of us all together, which I still have.
As I heard Jane speak at that conference and others, later, I came to know her better. I learned about her Roots & Shoots program, which seemed to be a model combination of advancing animal and human welfare in regions of the world where both are at immediate risk. I loved how she and her colleagues worked with local people to try to educate them about the amazing animals in their local environments, to encourage the conservation of the animals and their environments, and to help people develop ecotourism-related livelihoods. I don't think it’s realistic to ask deeply impoverished people to conserve their local animals and environments when their own survival is at stake, and they know they can achieve short-term gains by exploiting their environment, whether by eating the animals, or by cutting the trees for firewood, or in some other way. Not unless we can also meet least their basic survival needs and give them a sense of security. As I understand it, Jane’s Roots & Shoots program combines these priorities well.
Later, I briefly encountered Jane in a European airport. We were both coming from or going to some speaking engagement or conference, I think. I was amazed to learn that she spends about 300 days on the road each year, reaching out to large audiences around the globe, inspiring them to exercise more compassion for the other animals and people we share our amazing world with. And she does this all at an age when most others would be far happier quietly settled in retirement at home! I was deeply inspired by Jane, and I dream of doing something vaguely similar if I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity. People like Jane and Marc show us what is possible, even with (perhaps they would argue contrary to) the wisdom of advancing years.
Finally, I was very grateful when Jane personally helped me by publicizing my newly-released book The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments, in 2012. In a major editorial in The Times she criticized invasive research on primates and on animals in general. She summarised the evidence from large-scale studies described in my book, demonstrating that little if any of this research actually goes on to produce the public health benefits so often claimed, while at the same time this research is so costly in terms of dollars and animal lives.
In short, I’m very grateful for how Jane has helped me personally, and also, for the inspiration she provides to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Jane really shows what is possible to do with these precious opportunities we call our lives. Thank you Jane. I won’t be wasting mine.
Andrew Knight is an Associate Professor of Welfare and Ethics at the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in the Caribbean. He has written over 50 academic publications on animal issues. His passions include travel and vegan truffles.