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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

209. Put the monkeys in charge?


 Donald Trump is 70. The officially oldest Orangutan (the other orange primate) in the world is 60 and I know which one is more deserving of our respect.

Recently, I listened to a radio interview. You know the ones. The media outlet gets a serious subject, finds two blokes on opposing sides who try to get a few words in for about two minutes before the sport or whatever.

In this case the ‘debate’ was whether scientists should continue medical experiments on primates.

Both interviewees delivered the predictable responses. The scientist’s angle was that there are lots of horrible diseases that affect humans that an understanding of the monkey brain (for example) might help us cure. The other guy pointed out that it was cruel, often completely useless and immoral especially since we now know how intelligent non-human primates are.

As it happens, it is entirely possible for both positions to be true.

What was not said is that a huge percentage of human health problems are,

a.  Entirely preventable
b.  Caused by humans

Also, we apply only a tiny proportion of the knowledge we have, to help people. Add to this the fact that much of the global population is blocked from even basic medical care by poverty or lack of infrastructure and suddenly the case for causing suffering and harm to any other species begins to fall apart.

Putting aside drug/alcohol abuse, smoking, poor diet and debt-related anxiety, is there anyone left on the planet who does not know that pollution is killing us, both directly and by devastating the environment we depend on?

Stress will shorten your life. Here in the UK, thanks to zero hours contracts and employers finding new ways around paying the minimum wage, even those in work often struggle to make ends meet. (see blog 174. Zero Hours is not a contract)

Data has emerged to show that in parts of Africa air pollution is now responsible for more premature deaths than starvation or unsanitary water.

Road deaths from motor vehicle accidents have reached epidemic proportions across the world. This is never headline news. Why? Because we don’t want to give up or reduce car use.

Right now, humans around the world are doing a monumentally efficient job of killing each other with guns and other highly sophisticated weapons. In America, they slaughter each other daily. It’s so popular, even school children join in.

Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies spend more time and energy creating drugs for profit than they do in developing and making available drugs that benefit humanity. (see blog 97. Viagra yes, cure for malaria, no…)


Here in the UK tree coverage is down to near 11%. Even mainland Europe does better and that is only just over 30% But what are we doing? Planning more runways (Heathrow) and preparing to cut through great swathes of the countryside with the new HS2 rail link. The rail systems we have would serve us if they were brought back into public ownership and run properly with revenue going into investment rather than shareholder’s pockets.

Trees, by the way, are those green things that produce oxygen – that stuff we like to breathe…

The world is in some turmoil. And there is a powerful underlying reason for that – Inequality. Inequality is arguably the greatest cause of war, famine, unrest and even disease and premature death. But maybe this is not something governments will tackle head on because it means curbing human excesses and the grossly bad behaviour of the very rich. But we desperately need to change the rules (see blog 201 Change the Rules).

Radical re-foresting programmes and energetic tackling of social inequality would do far more to improve human health and wellbeing than brutalising primates in the name of science. 

Short-termism appears to be everyone’s modus operandi right now. Much better to keep burning the planet for profit and hope science gets us out of the mess, keep poisoning and choking people and wish for a drug that can put things right.

Ironically, inequality is something monkeys understand and reject. There is a famous experiment that shows this. I won’t link the video as I cannot stand to promote images of intelligent animals in cages.
Also, monkeys may even be smart enough to reject selfish behaviour. https://youtu.be/tOIoeOoH6h0 If only humans could do this…

I’m sure chimps could help us out. We should just give them some lab coats and test tubes and a few millions of research funding and ask them,

Why is the upright, clever aquatic ape so f***ing stupid?

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For related reading from the archives try blog 12. Armageddon will not be Televised


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