chimps entertainmentBelow is a letter from Jane Goodall to professionals in the entertainment and advertising industry outlining the arguments against the use of great apes in entertainment.

Dear ______________,

I am writing to ask you to consider an aspect of the advertising trade that you may not have considered before — the cost of using chimpanzees in advertising. As a media professional, your work — now or in the future — may be tied to the use of chimpanzees. I want to share some relevant information, which I'm presenting in a Q&A format so that you can easily share this knowledge with your colleagues.

How are chimpanzees trained to perform?

They are separated from their mothers as infants. This is truly tragic, because in the wild, the child stays with his or her family for at least eight years. Furthermore — trainers require obedient subjects. Although it is possible to train animals using only kindness, reward and praise, this requires the kind of time and patience which simply are lacking in the fast moving world of show business. Many trainers will admit that they beat their performers during training. In many cases the abuse is horrendous.

What happens to the performers after they reach puberty?

When they are six to eight years old, they typically become more difficult to handle. To make them manageable, trainers may have the chimps' teeth pulled or may fit them with shock collars under their clothes.

But usually the performers, when they are no longer amenable to discipline, are discarded. And it is becoming harder and harder to place them. Like human children, ape children learn by watching adults and imitating their behavior. They learn in a social context. And individuals who have no chance to grow up in a normal group not only fail to learn the nuances of chimp etiquette, but in addition are likely to show abnormal behaviours. These chimps are not accepted by accredited zoos. They tend not to fit into established groups. And so, unless they can be placed in one of the few sanctuaries for abused, surplus chimps, they will end up in roadside zoos or being quietly euthanized.

Does using chimpanzees in entertainment and advertising help people to appreciate them more?

The use of chimpanzees for advertising is so at odds with the individual's normal life and habits, and creates terribly wrong perceptions of these amazing creatures. Do you realize that the chimpanzee's smile so often seen on TV is actually a grin of fear? These trained performers suffer greatly for our amusement.

Because performing chimpanzees and orangutans are young (the adults are far too large, powerful, and potentially dangerous), people have the impression that these apes are small, cute and cuddly. They can have no concept of the majesty of the fully grown animal. And it is this unrealistic picture that perpetuates the continued buying and selling of young chimpanzees as "pets."

At least entertainment chimpanzees don't represent a drain on wild populations.

Many people don't realise chimpanzees are endangered in the wild, as are all the other great apes — gorillas, orangutans and bonobos. In fact, the number of human beings born every day is greater than the number of other remaining great apes in the wild. And while it is true that circus chimpanzees in North America were bred in captivity, this is not necessarily true in parts of the world where the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species either has not been ratified or is not enforced. And so European circuses or side shows may well travel with chimpanzee or orangutan performers who were born in the wild. Thus the use of apes (and other endangered species) in entertainment does represent a drain on rapidly decreasing wild populations.

Many of these arguments also apply to the use of other exotic animals such as lions, tigers, elephants and bears. Especially considering the new abilities of animatronics and other computer imagery, there is really no justification for forcing these amazing creatures to suffer for our amusement or gain. I hope you'll join the growing number of businesses that refuse to sanction or participate in this gross misuse of creatures who are vulnerable to our exploitation precisely because they are so like us.


Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE