There is a very long history of animals being used in entertainment. Chimpanzees are certainly no exception. The American Humane Association first started monitoring the film industry in 1939 after a horse was made to jump off a cliff to it’s death in the making of the film Jesse James. It was not until 1989’s Fat Boy and Little Man that the now familiar NO Animals Were Harmed During the Making of this Film was added to the credits. But even if a film steps outside the boundaries, there are no film industry or AHA legal consequences other than, perhaps, a marketing effort for the public to boycott a film. Last year’s Wolf of Wallstreet featured Chance, a chimpanzee actor who played the “role” of Leonardo DiCaprio’s pet. (For more on Chance, read Chimpanzees as Props by the Non-Human Rights Project.) Although there was some public outcry, the film went on to earn worldwide box office receipts totalling over 392M.
Animals appearing in our visual culture–television, film, print, on-line, etc–is sadly, still very common today. YouTube is a virtual curiosity cabinet of kittens in cups. Even videos depicting captive animals behaving violently against human animals has become a source of “entertainment.”
Chimpanzee “actors” have been widely used, including in TV shows, films, commercials, circuses and live events. These ape actors, young chimps that have been removed from their mothers, are trained by humans to make us laugh. Once they become adolescents they are to powerful and dangerous and so, are discarded–sold off to a life in research or perhaps to a road side attraction or zoo where they live out the rest of their lives on display.
Chimpanzees featured on greeting cards and posters are no different than their movie actor relatives. They have been condemned to a life of entertainment, dressed up in frilly dresses and cowboy hats. The “smiling” chimpanzee you see on a birthday card is actually not smiling at all. Displaying of teeth in a wide “grin” is more likely a fearful chimp in distress, or a trained chimp following a command. (A wild chimpanzee would display happiness with the upper lip pulled down covering the teeth and only the bottom teeth exposed.)
Signing petitions, sharing awareness posts, writing emails–it all helps. But in the end, we are a consumer society and it is the mighty dollar that can help put a stop to the use of apes and other animals in entertainment. As long as we consume the videos, tv shows and films, buy the advertised product, attend the events and circuses, pay admission to the zoos and animal parks, and buy the cards and gifts featuring these “working” animals, these “props” or properties of human-run businesses, we are contributing to the profits. Money feeds these industries and creates the demand for animal entertainers. Our money.
i am SO in love with your blog - it's absolutely amazing what you do for these beautiful animals, and i hope you're very proud of your work! i'd love to volunteer at an ape sanctuary myself one day, and i just want you to know what a great inspiration you are to me :) lots of love <3
Well, thanks so much for taking the time to tell us. Good luck on your journey and we are sure you will in turn inspire others. Best, FF