A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Time to Outlaw TV Spots with Chimps


There’s a big lie behind the protests that “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie” or TV spot.

An ad from Career Builder, prepared for the Super Bowl, received huge attention online. Career Builder is a Chicago company, but Dr. Steve Ross, chimp expert at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, said he couldn’t believe the company would use chimps in TV commercials. Businesses generally, he said, have moved away from using them since they can cause severe emotional and psychological distress for the animals involved.

CareerBuilder.com said they had a person from the American Humane Association (AHA) on the set the whole time, and that the chimps were well cared for with a lot of respect.

But this is highly misleading.

The people from AHA who monitor nonhuman animals on the sets of movies are expert in their field and take their work very seriously. But here’s the catch:

They only monitor animals on the actual set. And that’s the last one percent of all of what goes into preparing a chimp, an elephant or any other animal for their time on-camera.

For example, Tai, the elephant used in the movie Water for Elephants, was seriously abused for years prior to her on-the-set-time. None of that prior “training” was monitored by AHA. But some of it was caught on undercover video. And it was shocking. (Very literally shocking in that there’s an electric shock device that delivers a million volts to an elephant’s tummy when she doesn’t stand up properly on her back legs and wave her front paws in the air to the satisfaction of her trainers.)

Dr. Ross said he wasn’t just concerned about what happens on set, but also how the chimps were trained off the set. He talked about the likelihood of severe emotional stress.

He added that people get entirely the wrong idea about chimpanzees since they are now an endangered species.We may soon have brought closest relatives to extinction. And this comical presentation does nothing to help.