All species of monkeys and apes are categorized as “primates.” The primates seen most commonly in film and television productions are capuchin monkeys, orangutans, and chimpanzees. Primates are intelligent, curious, and highly social animals with complex physical and psychological needs.
Primates who are used in film and television productions have been taken away from their mothers at an early age, a deeply cruel practice that hurts both mother and baby, and are forced to perform behaviors that are unnatural and sometimes painful. They are often isolated from other primates, and physical abuse is common during pre-production training. An undercover investigation of a primate-training facility in California revealed that trainers were beating chimpanzees with sticks and punching them in the face in order to break the animals’ spirits and force them to perform on cue.
Chimpanzees and orangutans become extremely strong and dangerous when they reach adolescence, at around 7 or 8 years of age, and can no longer be used for entertainment. Most are discarded at poorly-run roadside zoos, or they may be sold into the pet trade. Many discarded apes languish in tiny cages in backyards, basements, or garages for decades, usually alone and isolated from other animals. They may be bred repeatedly to provide a continuous supply of newborns for the entertainment industry. PETA found Chubbs, a chimpanzee who was used in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and in The Chimp Channel series, languishing in a seedy roadside zoo in Texas called Amarillo Wildlife Refuge. Chubbs was living on dog food and rotten produce.
Primate sanctuary directors tell us that they became overwhelmed with discarded monkey “ex-pets” shortly after monkey characters were featured on productions such as Friends and Pirates of the Caribbean. Recent studies have revealed that advertisements and other productions featuring primates are driving the demand for these animals as exotic pets, only to leave the animals psychologically damaged, deprived of everything essential to their well-being.
As the public learns more about the plight of primates used for entertainment, it’s quickly becoming taboo to use them in productions. All of the top 10 U.S. advertising agencies now have policies in place that prohibit the use of great apes in their ads. Numerous commercials and other TV spots featuring primates, including ads for Dodge, Robitussin, Almond Joy, Pizza Factory, Great Clips, Samsung, Travelers Insurance, and Capital One, were pulled or altered after companies learned about the plight of these animals.