Best Friends Blog

Jane Goodall’s Simple Truths

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jane Goodall at the Best Friends Strut Your Mutt event in Los Angeles on Saturday, September 24th. Dr. Goodall is, of course, world famous for her groundbreaking and most comprehensive and revealing studies of chimpanzees in the wild. She began that work in 1960 and has since become a worldwide icon for primate advocacy, wildlife preservation, habitat protection and an enlightened human relationship with all living things. (You can check out the Jane Goodall Institute website for more information on her lifesaving work.)

At the Strut, as she took time to pose for some photos while holding one of the Strut Your Mutt dogs who was available for adoption, I commented jokingly that obviously primates weren’t the only animals with whom she has a special bond. Dr. Goodall quickly replied that she learned her most important lessons about animals from her childhood dog, Rusty. She learned that animals have individual personalities, minds and feelings. Of course, these are the same common sense observations that are the underpinnings of Best Friends and the no-kill movement.

In fact, there are many similarities between Jane Goodall’s message, methods and her relationship to the traditional schools of thought and the Best Friends philosophy and approach.

Like the founders of Best Friends, Dr. Goodall launched into her chosen field with no formal training. In her case, it was field studies of animals, and like the Best Friends founders, she proceeded to break all the rules and annoy the “experts” — rules like giving her subject chimpanzees names and ascribing feeling and emotions to them. Her gentle demeanor and nonintrusive approach to our closest relatives in the animal world enabled her to build trust with the chimpanzees. As a result, she was able to definitively document primate toolmaking and other skills as well as their cognitive abilities akin to those of humans that established scientists had previously denied primates possessed. She literally changed the way the world views animals.

More striking, though, than the similarity of her personal approach to animals with the approach of the founders of Best Friends to animals is the message of kindness that permeates her organization and ours.

Without comparing notes, we arrived at the same worldview and an almost identical set of guiding principles.

The Jane Goodall Institute’s core values and the Best Friends vision statement and guiding principles mesh rather seamlessly:

Jane Goodall Institute’s core values:

• We strive to respect, nourish and protect all living things; people, animals and the environment are all interconnected.
• We believe that every individual has the ability to make a positive difference.

Best Friends’ vision statement and guiding principles:

• A better world through kindness to animals
• We treat all living creatures as we ourselves would wish to be treated.
• Compassion and respect for all living creatures

What’s really of interest here is that these are the same conclusions that anyone who opens themselves to an honest relationship with animals would arrive at. Rather than distancing and distinguishing ourselves from other animals as lesser and unfeeling — an approach that has made animal experimentation and abuse, including shelter killing, somehow acceptable — people who do approach animals as unique individuals and friends arrive at a shared appreciation of all life as expressed in the principles and values of the Jane Goodall Institute and Best Friends.

If Jane’s dog, Rusty, could have written, he would have probably come up with a similar list of values. Fortunately for Rusty, he had a very capable student.


Francis Battista
Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Anonymous

    I also truly respect and honor Dr. Jane Goodall.It puts a smile on my face to hear the love and support that the community has for Jane. She is an amazing person and her progressive attitude can motivate just about anyone. If you are interested in learning more about Jane’s views in an informative workshop setting, please consider attending Jane Goodall’s North America Training Summit 2011. To learn more about this event, click here.

  • Ann-Marie

    How wonderful that Ms. Goodall was able to visit the event!  Wow!  What an inspiration she is!  Thanks for all the work you all do at Best Friends Sanctuary…we toured this past August and were blown away!  It is fantastic and so very respectful of all life…

  • Sandee

    WOW! Best Friends AND Jane Goodall, the best of the best!!!


  • Cambridge Rat Mom

    Jane Goodall is a goddess! She autographed a book for me after a talk she gave at Harvard on my birthday.

  • I was at the event – part of the Much Love Animal Rescue group! It was a great success (and fun), but somehow I missed Jane Goodall!  I’m so bummed! She is such a role model! 

  • Mpfranks

    people like Jane don’t come along that often, she has invaluable insight.   I wish I could have met her myself, but I appreciate her advocacy for all of our beloved animals!



  • KC

    I love this simple gesture of kindness to animals and my only wish is that people would translate their love of animas to all animals and not slaughter and eat them.  Of course we would not eat our pet, but what about the millions of animals who have personalities just like our pets do, why can we not treat them with the same respect?  Then we truly are walking the walk instead of talking the talk.  

  • Sonyabill

    The Oakland Zoo has been a long time supporter of Jane Goodall and her wonderful work.   . She is a humble, gracious, loving person  and has come to visit and talk several times.  I believe she was instrumental in naming two of our chimps!  What an honor to have met her and to have a T shirt autographed by her!  

  • Faunesiegel

    I would love to have Leila, she is what I was looking for but I have 3 living with me even though one does not technically live here. 
    I so agree with the values at Best Friends although I would call them living beings instead gf living things as things are objects and not alive. Trivial I know but I tend to hone in on words and how they are used. 
    Someday i hope to visit and hopefully there will be a Leila there for me as I know it would be very hard to leave without taking someone home.  

  • Cat

    I have thought all my life , even as a child that all animals have feelings and emotions the same as all people.But we as human beings are told that we are superior and much more intelligent.This way of thinking has upset me all my life.I think it is a matter of love for all creatures that God has put on this earth  for us to enjoy and share in that will change this outlook.Whenever I hear about the enjoyment people get by going out killing animals under the name sport hunting just makes me shake my head in discuss.What they probably need is just a good dose of nature and to get away from it all.Why make the animals suffer and to kill them because you need a reason to get away .

    • KC

      Why do we make animals suffer and kill them because we somehow think our taste buds or nutritional diet comes first?  One of the largest animal an elephant is a vegetarian and it proves that the whole idea of protein is just a scam to keep the meat industry alive and well at the expense and suffering of our beloved animals.  

  • Jill

    just fabulous!

  • The Social Pet

    Jane Goodall is a great person.  I admire everything she has done to further animal welfare and animal rights. 

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful blog.  Great message.  

  • Kaylee of Best Friends LA

    If anybody falls in love with Leila (the gray dog being held by Jane Goodall), she’s available for adoption through Best Friends LA Programs!

    • Anonymous


    • BetsyV

      Is Leila still available, and how can I learn more about her?

  • I have been supporting Best Friends for a number of years. This year I received materials from The Jane Goodall Institute. I was so drawn to her message that I have decided to support The Jane Goodall Institute with at least an annual donation.
    Both these organizations are unique and well worth supporting.  Janet Franklin

  • Admathieu

    I had the honor of getting to meet Jane Goodall and listen to her speak many years ago.  To say the least, I was profoundly affected by her gentle, caring nature and her powerful work as an animal advocate.  She changed forever my view of our world and the wonderful animals in it.

  • dutchess550

    Look at the face of that grey dog. Awww.