Big news from The UK!
There will be no more chimps used to advertise the PG Tips brand of tea. The animals were familiar to television viewers for over 50 years.
As a child, I always found it slightly creepy to watch a chimpanzee wearing a knitted bonnet and doing a perfect job of pouring a cup of tea from a teapot, but the commercials were very popular with the British public.
Later, I found it outrageous to dress animals in clothes and make them behave like humans, and in fact the advertisements were stopped in 1970, due to complaints from animal rights groups. However, they returned just 18 months later.
In fact, the chimps have not been used to advertise PG Tips since 2003, but only now has Twycross Zoo, in Leicestershire, which raised the animals, begun to admit what damage has been done over the years.
The zoo, which made a good deal of money from the PG Tips ads, has since said the use of the apes was wrong and has highlighted the damage they caused the animals in later life.
Chimps Dressed Up in Clothes and Lip-Synced
In case you’re not familiar with them, the chimpanzees were dressed up in clothes and lip-synced with the voices of actors such as Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse. They also appeared in children’s shows Tiswas and Blue Peter, and visitors flocked to see their messy tea parties.
Now there is just one surviving chimp from the TV days, and even though she is 42 she is still learning how to be a chimpanzee, having preferred the company of humans all her life.
From the BBC:
Her insularity and unwillingness to integrate with other chimps was caused by the close bonds she formed with people, according to Sharon Redrobe, Twycross Zoo’s chief executive.
“She’s mixed up,” said Ms Redrobe.
“It’s not a good start in life to be treated like a human because they don’t learn ape behaviour and are not very good at being with other chimps.
The Shocking Way Animals Are Treated in Movies
Unfortunately, being treated like a human is not the worst thing that can happen to animals when they are used commercially.
As Care2 reported here, during the making of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” animal handlers blamed the production company for the death of 27 animals. Peter Jackson, the director, denied all charges, but four wranglers accused producers of failing to do enough to prevent the deaths of three horses, six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens.
The 2011 film “Water for Elephants” features a 42-year-old Asian elephant Tai, who is brutally attacked by a circus owner who beats her with a bull hook. The producers, stars and trainers initially insisted that Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows and positive reinforcement, but secret video footage released by Animal Defenders International shows Tai being electric shocked and beaten during training to make her perform tricks that she later went on to perform in the film.
These are just of the many horrific ways in which animals have been treated in movies.
No More PG Tips Chimps
Thankfully for those PG Tips chimps, times have changed at Twycross Zoo, which is now also known as the World Primate Center and actively promotes conservation. Nowadays the animals’ enclosures are matched as closely as possible to wild habitats.
“You can’t deny the past – it happened,” said Sharon Redrobe. ”It absolutely wouldn’t happen again under my leadership.”
“It was of its time and it makes me cringe to see it, but people at the time didn’t know any better.”
There is nothing glamorous about being on the big screen for primates, big cats, bears and other animals who are used in television, film or advertising.
Trainers who supply animals to the entertainment industry are frequently cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, which establishes only minimal guidelines for animal care.
Highly intelligent, sensitive animals deserve better than to be treated as if they were props for our amusement. If you see a film, television show or commercial that exploits chimps or other wild animals, please contact the producers and tell them why you object.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock