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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Human Liberation Movement

Jo Jo looked down from the rainforest canopy. He checked lower branches for all members of his chimpanzee troop. As alpha male, he took his responsibility for troop welfare very seriously.

He glanced at the human compound, far below. He noted the lavish facilities: the swimming pools, the saunas and myriad serving staff. He also sensed the heavy air of sadness and foreboding that had been intensifying during past weeks.

Jo Jo recalled that atmosphere five years ago, just before all compound occupants had left and been replaced by excited and joyous newcomers.

Curiosity had led him then to follow the wagons transporting the earlier residents away.

He had been horrified and sickened - they were taken to an abattoir and killed.

Viewers of BBC wildlife documentaries retain two misapprehensions about chimpanzees:

The first is that they are not very bright. It is true they lack the evolutionary advantages of some cerebral functions - such as advanced speech. Nevertheless, they possess a level of intelligence and reasoning which is easily superior to that, for example, of backbench politicians.

The second misapprehension is that chimpanzees are violent killers. Jo Jo lamented the dreadful publicity his species had received following David Attenborough’s film of a troop killing a monkey. Jo Jo had known Ca Ca, the leader of that troop. He had been a dangerous psychopath since chimphood. For Attenborough to conclude all chimpanzees acted in that way was like citing Hitler’s behaviour as typical of humans. Jo Jo, and most of his kind, were peaceable vegetarians.

Following the human massacre, Jo Jo frequented the compound, listening to conversation snippets from the new arrivals. He had learned the rudiments of English from the BBC World Service on a wind-up radio dropped by an eco-tourist.

Jo Jo gradually understood: An English broadcaster, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, had asserted that humans made a contract with farm animals. Humans ate the animals, but fulfilled their contractual responsibilities by caring well for the creatures during their lives.

Vegetarian animal rights lawyers had argued this was an invalid contract, as the animals could not exercise informed choice. It was concluded, however, that it was reasonable to eat volunteer humans in exchange for a five-year period of unstinting excess.

The commercial value of the delicacy easily funded development of secluded luxury holiday farms.

The desperate and disadvantaged volunteered in droves. During the first four years, they lived their perceptions of Heaven on Earth. As the end of the fifth approached, however, the ghoulish consequences of their Faustian pacts took form.

Jo Jo was unimpressed by contracts. He abhorred killing or violence towards any creature. He had formed the Human Liberation Movement.

Jo Jo had, however, heard radio recordings of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr and had profoundly understood the relationship between ‘peaceful ends’ and ‘peaceful means’ – something, he reflected, that some humans in similar movements had tragically overlooked.

Jo Jo’s call transformed the hush of the evening rainforest into a kaleidoscope of noise and action. Hundreds of chimpanzees converged on the human compound, tearing down fences and gates. The reprieved took control and began to plan their freedom.

Peace returned to the rainforest.

Jo Jo and the troop rested briefly before moving on.

They would reach the next compound by dawn.