Wellington’s alternative radio station, Access Radio, broadcasts every Sunday afternoon. They approach me, having seen my Dominion article and ads in the Evening Post, and give Zootherapy a slot in between the Sri Lankan Community Roundup, and the local lesbian chat show. Radio alchemy converts the 30-
Hugh: tell us a bit about yourself.
Sinclaire: I was born and educated in England, and emigrated to New Zealand in 1985.
Hugh: What do you think about New Zealand?
Sinclaire: It’s been good to me and especially to Zootherapy.
Hugh: Could you please tell our listeners exactly what is Zootherapy?
Sinclaire: It’s a way of encouraging people to access their own animal talents and insight. A sort of role play.
Hugh: It started with a gorilla costume, right?
Sinclaire: Yes, I won’t say too much because, you know, client confidentiality. But yes, I have used a gorilla costume in my Zootherapy practice.
Hugh: And how does that work?
Sinclaire: Well, for some people, some of the time, behaving as they imagine a gorilla will behave releases certain tensions and inhibitions, and the benefits of Zootherapy can carry over into everyday life.
Hugh: So how long does this Zootherapy take to learn?
Sinclaire: It’s more about unlearning, Hugh. But it’s not learning about unlearning. It’s creating an environment within which it’s more likely that you’ll unlearn. You see the world through animal eyes. But you keep what’s necessary of the human world. It’s like (pause) I don’t know (pause) you know, Robinson Crusoe. We enter a new and pristine animal world of vitality and living in the present, but with our intellectual faculties there as a bonus to be used only when necessary. But if they’re over-
Hugh: Like what?
Sinclaire: Well, animals don’t torture or kill their own, like we do. That’s a good starting point: if we’re behaving worse than animals, then maybe we should question why that is. And also if we’re more depressed than animals. We should ask why that is.
Hugh: OK. Right. And how long does it take to learn Zootherapy?
Sinclaire: I’ve seen good results in a couple of sessions, but most people need a few more.
Hugh: Any failures?
Sinclaire: Two or three apparent failures. I think it’s like anything else: people have not necessarily got to want change but they do have to be open to the possibility of change. But with Zootherapy we don’t always know what sort of change we’ll see: only that it will be appropriate for the client. Some people resist that, but I like to think that the sessions open up new pathways in the mind that will be activated later in their life.
Hugh: Er…OK. Some people are saying Zootherapy is just a licence to behave like an animal. You, like, you know, free sex, or just grabbing somebody else’s food whenever you see it.
Sinclaire: They’ve got completely the wrong idea. First, animals are actually quite sophisticated when they’re in their own environment. They’ve evolved ways of dealing with sex and property and territory. Second, sure, Zootherapy is about getting rid of our inhibitions but only so that we behave appropriately. It makes us take in all the circumstances, rather than just our own desires. That’s what we, as humans are good at.
Hugh: Okaaaay.... At this point I’d like to bring in Professor Maurice Krumzinger, on the line from Zurich in Switzerland, right on the other side of the world. Thank you Professor, and I suppose I should say good morning to you and welcome to the programme.
Krumzinger: Very good to be with you.
I imagine him as a neat, precise, figure with a pointed beard, and his voice is consistent with that. But I’ve done this with people on the phone before and I invariably get it wrong. He’s probably a big bear of a man, with a shaggy black mane of hair, dressed in a tracksuit and sneakers.
Hugh: Professor Krumzinger, why don’t you start by telling us your own ideas about Zootherapy.
Krumzinger: I think it’s very interesting that Mr Sinclaire began his movement with gorillas. You see, the ape represents the human at the pre-
Naturally, I want to say something here. I mean, gorillagrams might be passé in the everywhere else, but in New Zealand they’re a thing. If you want to send an animated human birthday greeting to someone in Wellington you’re limited to either commissioning someone to dress up as a gorilla, or hiring a young, nubile female to do a slow striptease. It’s either a gorilla suit or a sequined bikini and feather boa. But I try to be understanding and put my energies instead into performing some postural neck retraction exercises. (Something I’d learned to do at the Ministry: how else to endure our Monday morning meetings?) The professor just wants to see Zootherapy through his own grid of knowledge. A common failing. A bit later, when Hugh asks about any downsides to Zootherapy, and I reveal that my transformative session with my first abused woman client (Jenny) had drawn blood, the professor is unstoppable:
Krumzinger: Very interesting. The scratch on Mr Sinclaire’s face was an offering of sacrificial blood, so to speak. He was in effect offering up to the gods his career as a social worker. And in fact Mr Sinclaire is echoing what many thinkers have said before: that we need to develop a more intuitive understanding of animals. Why, back in 1928 an American by the name of Henry Beston -
It keeps the show going, but I still I find this stuff irritating, mainly because I have a tendency to do it myself: all this rationalising something that I discovered by chance. You couldn’t prove or disprove any of it. I suppose some of it could be true at some level. But so what? The whole point about Zootherapy is to ditch these theories and anything else that comes between us and the world....