Animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns. Yet thousands of these animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment; are carted across the country in cramped and stuffy boxcars or semi-truck trailers; are kept chained or caged in barren, boring, and filthy enclosures; and are separated from their families and friends—all for the sake of human “entertainment.” Many of these animals even pay with their lives.
The American Humane Association’s (AHA) “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval is extremely misleading to producers and audiences alike. AHA doesn’t monitor the living conditions of animals off set, during pre-production training, or when they’re taken from their mothers. The organization, which is funded by the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers—the very industry that it is tasked with monitoring—rarely, if ever, files formal complaints when animals are mistreated. In fact, AHA actively defends the use of great apes in film and television productions—despite assertions by experts that they cannot be trained for entertainment unless they’re subjected to physical abuse.
With all the highly advanced technologies that are available today—including animatronics, animation, computer-generated imagery, and more—it has never been easier to spare great apes a lifetime of misery as “actors.” After learning about the cruelty that these animals endure behind the scenes, numerous companies and advertising agencies have pledged never to use them in their productions.
Inaccurate portrayals of chimpanzees—such as when they’re used as human caricatures or displayed in unnatural environments—have a negative impact on the species, which is endangered and which, according to Dr. Jane Goodall, may become extinct within our lifetime. A number of studies, including two conducted by researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Harvard University, show that the inaccurate portrayal of apes in the media seriously hinders conservation efforts.
What You Can Do
Highly intelligent, sensitive animals deserve better than to be treated as if they were props for our amusement. Here’s how you can help stop the abuse:
• If you see a film, television show, or advertisement that exploits great apes or other wild animals, contact the producers and tell them why you object.
• If your school still exploits an animal as a mascot, start a campaign to switch to a costumed human mascot.
• If your church still uses live animals in Nativity scenes, appeal to your congregation to take an ethical stand against the practice.
• If your local sports team has a “monkey rodeo” promotion, contact team management to voice your objections.