Window to the wild world: Animal rights activist Jane Goodall on letting animals be

On World Animal Welfare Day, we turn to words by primatologist, climate change activist and animal rights activist Jane Goodall as a reminder to be kind to the animal kingdom as well.

Every person should be thankful that Jane Goodall set out to Africa – to explore the lives of human’s closest living relative, chimpanzee – at the age of 27 in July, 1960. 

Six decades later today, mankind has a much better understanding of primate science. Jane would spend her days watching and learning social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees and jot down her observations at night in her tent in the Gombe Forest in Tanzania. She was armed with nothing more than a notebook, binoculars, and an abundant love for animals. 

The primatologist has authored more than a dozen books, established several sanctuaries, and has dedicated her time to meaningful work of ecological conservation. The 86-year-old obtained a PhD from the University of Cambridge without having a Bachelor’s degree to her name. 

The Jane Goodall Institute and its programme Roots & Shoots have globally encouraged younger generations around the world to consider wildlife as sentient beings and embrace biodiversity. Last year, she was named among TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. 

She ventured into wildlife conservation at a time when there were no female scientists. On multiple occasions, Jane has said that everybody laughed at the prospect of her becoming a scientist except for her mother.

Jane stuck with one advice from her mother throughout her life – “If you really want this, you have to work really hard, take advantage of all opportunities but don’t give up.”

In 2017, the chimpanzee Wounda won over the heart of netizens because of Jane Goodall’s extensive work. When Wounda was being released into the sanctuary, she gave a parting hug of gratitude before exploring the forested sanctuary. The viral video became a window to emotional capabilities and life of chimpanzees.  

Jane’s words from her book Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey (1999) could not ring truer: “And always I have this feeling--which may not be true at all--that I am being used as a messenger.”  

On World Animal Welfare Day, here are 12 quotes from the trailblazer that remind us to be kind towards animals: 

On compassion and equality

“They are part of our world. And just because we can destroy our world and exterminate species doesn’t mean we should.”

“Once you are prepared to admit that animals are sentient and can not only know emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, but especially they can feel pain — then, as humans with advanced reasoning powers, we have a responsibility to treat them in more humane ways than we so often do.”

“In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely, we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes? Yes.”

“We have so far to go to realize our human potential for compassion, altruism, and love.”

“If we do not do something to help these creatures, we make a mockery of the whole concept of justice.”

“Let us move forward with faith in ourselves, in our intelligence, in our indomitable spirit. Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion and love.”

On being voice for the voiceless

“The least I can do is speak out for the hundreds of chimpanzees who, right now, sit hunched, miserable and without hope, staring out with dead eyes from their metal prisons.”

“We find animals doing things that we, in our arrogance, used to think was ‘just human’.”

“Thousands of people who say they love animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs.”


“I blame us. The bats are perfectly fine if they are left alone where they belong. But the trouble is we have invaded their habitat.”

On change

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.”

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Edited by Kanishk Singh


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