Researchers at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa and colleagues from major zoos are teaming up to discourage the use of apes in advertisements and entertainment.
Robert Shumaker, director of orangutan research at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, said that for awhile the use of monkeys in advertisements and entertainment seemed to have died down. He told the Des Moines Register,
It seemed like it was dying down for a while, but now it’s coming back. . . . I think that the commercial use of great apes, whether in entertainment or pet trade or photo ops, is impossible without some kind of abuse. . . . The abuse comes when no one is looking.
Companies that use apes in advertisements defend the practice and note that regardless of welfare issues, apes in ads work. Erin Fifield of Taco John’s, which has been running an ad campaign the past couple years featuring Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey, told the Des Moines Register,
People love him. Whiplash has a fan base worldwide. He’s just a lovable character who, even before he joined Taco John’s campaign, was appearing at rodeos riding around on his dog. Since he joined Taco John’s, sales are up and visibility is up. . . . This little monkey is treated better than most people. He has his own trailer. He’s like another kid. . . . Someone will always find a reason to complain, but he is not abused.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Amy Rhodes told the Des Moines Register that it has had some success in convincing companies to not use apes in advertising. She cited Honda, Puma, Keds and USA Warehouse as companies that agreed to pull ads featuring apes or monkeys after PETA raised objections.
I suspect this is one area where the animal rights movement is likely hurting the cause of animal welfare. It would be preferable, in my opinion, that non-human primates not be used in entertainment. The problem is that thanks to the actions of groups like PETA with their whining about renaming Fishkill, New York or their comparison of animal agriculture to the Holocaust/slavery, serious animal welfare issues will get swept away as just another ridiculous animal rights complaint (as Fifield clearly dismisses the animal welfare concerns).
Use of apes in ads worries scientists. Perry Beeman, Des Moines Register, August 15, 2005.