The Painting of The Liberian Chimpanzees

An Interview With Aya Katz

Aya Katz is a novelist and a blogger who recently painted an expressive portrait of three chimpanzees holding on to each other. I enjoyed watching the process as she worked on this painting, so I decided to ask her a few questions about it. Art is one of my favorite subjects, so it is important to learn more about the meaning behind a composition.

1. What type of paint did you use for this Liberian chimpanzees?

I used acrylic paint. The effect is very similar to an oil painting, but cleaning up is much easier. I am a messy painter, so that is important for me.

Painting of Liberian chimpanzees by Aya Katz.
Painting of three Liberian chimpanzees by Aya Katz.
Closeup of the chimpanzee painting.
Closeup of the chimpanzee painting.

The video of the completed chimpanzee painting.

2. What is the meaning behind the three chimpanzees holding on to each other?

When I made the sketch for this painting, I chose three individuals from the many that were in the photo I saw of the Liberian chimpanzees. The one on the far left and his companion were in the foreground and the one on the right was in the background, quite a bit closer to shore. The bigger chimp seemed to be almost leaning on the smaller one, but in a supportive, rather than a threatening way. And Bow helped me notice that the one on the right, who is eating, was a female. So I think what we have here is a little microcosm of the social relations among these Liberian chimpanzees. Stronger individuals form coalitions to achieve goals. And females, who may be caring for young, are allowed to eat first, even when they are making less of an effort. To me this looks like chivalry. Chimpanzees are not known for this kind of behavior, but it is well documented among bonobos.

3. How is the welfare of Liberian chimpanzees related to exotic animal issues in the US?

The story of the Liberian chimpanzees is related to chimpanzee welfare in the United States, because the New York Blood Center, an American institution, promised to care for them, but has been unwilling or possibly unable to keep that promise. The chimpanzees are in Africa, their place of origin, but this does not make the situation any easier for them, and they are unable to provide for themselves. This story refutes a number of claims made by animal rights activists in the US trying to end private ownership of chimpanzees. They claim ownership by an institution is better for chimpanzees than ownership by an individual. That is patently false, as institutions go bankrupt and break promises more frequently than individuals. Individuals form emotional attachments. Institutions don’t. They claim if you give up your chimpanzee to a sanctuary, he will be cared for beyond your lifetime. But there is no guarantee that a sanctuary will not go belly up. They also claim chimps are ferocious animals that cannot get along with humans, yet we see people in Liberia standing right next to the chimpanzees who beg for food, but do not harm them. So that claim is false. There are no barriers, as the animal rights people say there should always be between humans and chimps.

But, also, there is the claim that if you return chimpanzees to Africa and destroy their means of livelihood in the US, they will go back to a natural lifestyle and become self sufficient. That did not happen in Liberia. Arguably, ending the funding for the research of the New York Blood Center may have brought about the very situation that the animal rights people are using as propaganda. While I don’t like medical research on chimpanzees, chimps need a way to earn a living. Foreclosing all such options — whether for being family members of a human or working in entertainment — will throw many more American chimpanzees out of work and will reduce them to begging for a handout. We do the same to many Americans when their jobs are destroyed due to regulations that make it impossible to employ them. Do we really want to do the same to chimpanzees?

4. How was Bow involved in the painting process?

Bow watched me as I made the initial sketch and on through the painting process. Every time I stopped, and I did take a lot of really long breaks on this project, I showed Bow the progress I had made. Sometimes he approved, and sometimes not so much. One time he licked off a part of the faces because he thought I needed to redo them. But in the end, he really approved, and he said he noticed the one on the right was a girl and she was pretty.

Here are some links to the Notes from the Pens blog posts that relate to this:

Bow examines the painting of the three Liberian chimps.
The chimpanzee painting by Aya Katz is available as a poster over on Zazzle.

Interview With Aya Katz About The Ohio Exotic Animal Ban

Recently I have noticed my friend Aya Katz has been writing blog posts about her concerns with the HSUS, which made me wonder why she is talking about this.  Whereas I do think the HSUS and other organizations advocating for animals might have good intentions when it comes to their causes, the problem with worldviews is these often can be in conflict with others.  If we only hear one side of the story, we might not realize that others do not always agree with the agenda one organization declares to be the best way of doing things.  It is troubling to hear that the HSUS does not contribute much to local animals shelters, and that might be something people want to keep in mind when making donations.  Also, recently I have heard that both PETA and HSUS euthanize a large number of animals.  Since these organizations claim to be in favor of animal rights, I have to admit this is a bit troubling. Here are a couple of article on this subject.

I know some people get into the animal rights versus animal welfare argument, but my stance is simply that a large numbers of animals should not be euthanized when we could do more to create shelters, and open spaces where unwanted animals could live.  This is purely my take on the issue because I do not have a political stance on this at all, but it is good to have more information about the policies that the HSUS supports, especially since they are in favor of banning private citizens from owning exotic animals in Ohio.  This state has recently passed a law that will confiscate exotic animals from owners who have had them for years, and it sounds to be a little heavy handed.

Today I decided to ask Aya Katz a few questions about her views on the exotic animal ban in Ohio, and how this will impact animal owners.

1. Why do you view the HSUS as doing more harm than good for animals. I think some people would like to know what policies they support that are not beneficial for animals, as you have observed. I ask this because most people think they just want to help stray dogs and cats.

HSUS has consistently supported policies that are not in the best interest of animals, that lead to
their death or sterilization, and whose purpose seems to be to limit the number of non-humans
on the planet, with the ultimate goal that most people can have no animals to interact with.

Even in their policies with domestic animals of the most common sort, their first goal is to
make sure that all dogs and cats are neutered and spayed. They then go after breeders, calling
them puppy and kitten mills, because they make their living helping these species to procreate.
Well, if there are no accidental, unplanned pregnancies among dogs and cats, and if the price of
breeding becomes prohibitive due to unreasonable requirements, how many dogs and cats do
you think will remain, after all the policies are implemented? They are not trying to help. Their
policies, if left unchecked, would lead to extinction.

In the case of dogs and cats, HSUS has recruited the average dog or cat owner to spread their
message, because they are not open about their ultimate goal. Many good people actually buy
into these policies, and they try to shame other people into having their pets spayed and
neutered. One of the little known secrets is that spaying is a very invasive surgery; it requires
complete anesthesia, and many simply don’t wake up after the surgery. I have spoken to dog
breeders and they have told me this. The risks of spaying are not shared with the public.

HSUS says that they are concerned with “animal rights” and they often purport to speak for the
animals, while by-passing the rights of owners. But if you put yourself into the mind of a dog
or a cat, do you think they would want to have themselves castrated or de-sexed? It’s really not
just about reproductive rights. It is about altering the brain chemistry of an animal and
depriving them of important creative outlets for thought as well as action. Neutering and
spaying changes the personality. I support an owner’s right to neuter or spay their own dog or
cat, if they feel it is necessary for their own population control, but in that case they are
overriding the desires of their animals. As the caretaker of the animal, they have that right to do
that. But HSUS speaks of “animal rights” – not owner rights. If the animals were asked, they
would not want this. Clearly, HSUS is not better in touch with what a dog or cat would want
than an owner who has a relationship with the dog or cat in question. Their talk about animal
rights is a total deception. They have killed more dogs and cats than anyone else. Killing an
animal to protect its “rights” makes no sense at all.

In the case of exotic animals, HSUS is less reserved about its ultimate goals. They come right
out and say that ordinary people should not have exotic animals. And they will stop at nothing –
including killing innocent animals – to make that goal a reality.

The Ohio law, sponsored by HSUS, banning the sale, ownership and breeding of exotic animals
will take full effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Owners of exotic animals will lose their pets; the pets are
going to be housed in a closed facility that looks like a high security penitentiary, and if no
sanctuary or zoo will take them, they will be put to death. The sanctuaries and zoos are already
full. Death to all the exotic animals confiscated is the ultimate goal.

I don’t know how to express my feelings about this strongly enough. Maybe you will
understand better if you watch this video about how very much these owners love their animals
and to what extent that love is returned.

2. How is the exotic animal ban in Ohio unconstitutional, and how might this affect people in other

The exotic animal law in Ohio involves a taking of property without due process. It is an
arbitrary and capricious redistribution of property. These animals and their owners have done
nothing wrong. They have hurt no one else. They have trespassed on no one’s rights. They have
behaved responsibly. And yet their animals are being taken from them by force, given to
someone else, and that someone else in most cases will end up killing them.

If redistribution of wealth is wrong, how much worse is redistribution of members of your own
family! There are emotional ties here with these animals. How can we condone this kind of
cruelty, sometimes even the taking of a child’s beloved pet?

The only thing that protects our animals from the state is our right to own them and be good
stewards. That’s why property rights and due process are so important!

3. Where is the funding coming for housing these exotic animals that are confiscated in Ohio,
especially when our economy is already having issues?

All of this is being done at the taxpayer expense. The facility for storing the animals
prior to killing them cost $2.9 million. And I am sure each confiscation and each
execution will also cost a pretty penny.

4. Why is it unfair to judge all exotic animal owners by the actions of a few people who did not
take good care of their animals?

One of the premises behind the American system of justice is that we are all presumed innocent until
we are found guilty. To make someone pay for the crimes of someone else, or even for their errors of
judgment, is not only wrong, it violates the most basic premise of a civilized nation. None of us can be
free if we are judged in advance for what other people have done.
And none of us can be free unless we care enough to stand up for other people’s rights when they are
being violated. I don’t live in Ohio, but I recognize this could happen to me next and to someone I care
very much about who lives in my house and shares my life.
You may not have an exotic animal and may not wish to ever own one. But it affects you, too. When all
the exotics are gone, they will go after the dogs and the cats, too. And even if you are not an animal
lover at all, don’t think for a moment that they won’t go after whatever it is that matters to you. Property
rights and civil rights are being violated. The law is a giant web. Pull out one thread and it all unravels.
We have to stand up for the rights of other people, because if we don’t, then no one will be left to stand
up for ours. We’re in this together!



Interview With The Author Sandra Gallimore

Yesterday the author Sandra Gallimore left a very insightful comment on my blog, and I was intrigued to learn more about her books. Her novel Chronicles of Jongleur, The Storyteller  is set in 13th century England, and deals with issues such as religion and family.  This sounds like a fascinating read for people who are interested in Medieval England.  Gallimore was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had about her writing.

My Questions:

What genre does the novel Chronicles of Jongleur, The Storyteller fall into?

What compelled you to write about strong female characters, and who are some of the most important ones in your book?

What should first time readers know about your books?

Can you share some helpful hints/insights for writers who are publishing their first novel?

Sandra Gallimore:

Really good questions.  I consider this novel to be in the historical fiction genre since it is both historical and fiction.Many authors of controversial material will get their point or  research through to the reader by fictionalizing it-an example I the trilogy by Kathleen McGowan (The expected One, Book of Love, and Poet Prince).  Not only does she have visions herself but she has does done thousands of miles and hours of research for these books.  Because the subject matter and information is so interesting to me I find her a great little writer.  But the same material as non-fiction would be of minimal interest to most people unless they were of my mindset.  To get back to your question-my novel is full of adventure so it could be called that, a romantic age of chivalry(also cruelty) so it could be called that, so take your pick.I wrote strong female characters into my book for two reasons. First, because I couldn’t stand the reality of how they really were at the time, although there were many highly evolved woman like Eleanor of Aquataine, Ann Boleyn-any highly other educated nobles’, but for the most part rules could not be broken.  And they lived by harsh rules- totally ruled by men. My characters are no different but their mindset is, and their achievements are. They work around what the circumstances were. Things are not so different today in that way.  Divorced and widowed women do the same thing-and many married ones. But it was a no-brainer for me to write strong woman due to myself and my family.  We are now 4 to 5 generations of strong women raised by strong women through divorce.  The first was my mother who stayed married yet instilled a strength to do anything in her daughters who were divorced and instilled by action the same things, and so on. That resulted in children and grandchildren being exposed to the same influence.  So, my main female characters are a composite of those minds.  In other words, it is true to write what you know-it reads better and is honest.

What should readers know about my book?  I used my interest in so many things history -herbal remedy, travel, religion, the human conditions of goodness and cruelty, innocence and guilt, greed and giving, ignorance and knowledge, ‘unconditional love and lack of emotion-all as timeless eternity. I see now that there was synchronicity in this book with everything I did.  I traveled to France where they make wonderful soap I brought home- I went to Bathworks and saw high prices and decided I could make soap and perfume which interested me in herbs and remedies. I read about Mary Magdalene and dead sea scrolls and Jesus for many years-but did not realize that where I was in France was exactly where she was, and where the soap was (Provence) which led to more research.  You see it all fit together and was there for me to development a story around my interests and the events. I a m now working on a sequel and I still make awesome soap and perfume, though I no longer sell it  Why soap?  I had to ask myself ‘how would they have lived in those days? soap?, food, medicine? It goes on and on. And my main reason for placing in the the 13th century was the Church’s extermination of the Cathar’s who lived in that same area in France. Today they would be called Protestants and Mary Magdalene espoused those beliefs, and would have passed on those same beliefs.  I can only see it as synchronicity.

I have covered what advise I would give other women writers:  Write what you know, develop interests and research them. Your work will speak for itself.  I have pubished with Createspace but the promotion it takes is very daunting unless you have a lot of time. You see how many writers are clamoring for attention on Facebook.  So you must be diligent, or unique enough to get that agent and publishers attention. Unless these two things happen your book will just sit there.  I am not prepared to let mine do that even though it is self-published and controversial to boot.  One other thing-every page needs conflict to promote action and resolution. Let you readers sympathize with your characters.I’ll end with one comment.  The world will always desperately need heroes in books.  We need the to cope with the evils we see in people.   In my novel, Chronicles of Jongleur, the Storyteller, -you’ll never forget the heroes…

If you want to keep up with Sandra Gallimore’s latest writing, then you can follow her on Facebook.