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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2019 > The shadow of mankind

The shadow of mankind

Other animals can laugh, feel, think and mourn—so why do we still treat them so badly, asks Ray Monk
ILLUSTRATION BY STANLEY CHOW
Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Teach Us About Ourselves by Frans de Waal (Granta, £14.99)

On YouTube there is a moving clip of a brief encounter between a dying chimpanzee called Mama, and the Dutch biology professor Jan van Hooff. The two had known each other for over 40 years. At the beginning of the clip, we see Mama curled up in the foetal position.

She is 59 years old and looks as if she has lost the will to live. We see her refusing food and drink. Then Van Hooff enters her cage, making soft, reassuring grunting noises.

At first she takes no notice and refuses the grape he offers to her. Then she does a double take and realises that this new intruder is her old friend. Upon recognising him, she changes her attitude completely. She raises her head, and is clearly delighted to see him. They hold hands and she touches his face and his hair softly and tenderly. After then, finally accepting the grape in his hand, she reaches out and pulls him towards her for a hug, her fingers drumming the back of his head as the two embrace. The clip has been watched over 10m times.

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About Prospect Magazine

InProspect's May issue: Tom Clark explores how British politics has ended up in crisis and suggests that a proper constitution could have avoided the current chaos and may well be necessary now to avoid the same problems in the future. Elsewhere in the issue: Kevin Maguire profiles Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who says that “if needs must” he would join a government of national unity. Max Rashbrooke examines Jacinda Ardern’s government in New Zealand and the ways the country is being transformed, ultimately suggesting that it could be an example for Britain to follow. Also, Stefanie Marsh follows the work of a donor detective who is helping children conceived by anonymous sperm donation to find their biological parents and Francesca Wade shows how Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers.