Parliamentary question - E-4115/2009Parliamentary question

Use of a macaque monkey in the campaign

by Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission

The campaign (described on its home page as an EU initiative) has recently produced an advert dealing with its work in the area of tobacco control. The video[1] features a young macaque monkey on a lead in a public park, and can be seen at the abovementioned website (ad #2). The use of wild animals as ‘actors’ in television and film productions is inherently cruel. With a view to training them to perform on cue, young monkeys are forcibly removed from their mothers before weaning age, causing great distress and lasting psychological damage. Training methods can be violent, and the animals are often kept in substandard conditions. When primates approach adulthood and become aggressive, they are no longer profitable to their owners/trainers. However, they live for decades, so that they often spend the rest of their lives in barren cages, devoid of companionship and suffering from a host of abnormal types of behaviour, such as constant pacing or self-mutilation. If such animals are rescued, it is privately-funded sanctuaries which take them in and offer them the care they need for the rest of their lives.

The company which made the advert, Ligaris, has produced a letter from a veterinarian stating that the monkey used was not maltreated on set and was in good health at the time of production. However, this same veterinarian identified the monkey as a capuchin monkey. Macaques and capuchins are very different animals, communicating and behaving distinctively. If the vet is unable to tell the difference, how can he/she judge whether or not the monkey is showing signs of distress or ill health? Clearly, expertise is lacking. The trade in exotic animal species kept as pets in the EU represents a massive problem. In some cases, like that of the Barbary macaque, it has contributed to the species becoming endangered in its native habitat.

Depicting wild animals in unnatural situations and engaging in unnatural types of behaviour is anti-educative and incompatible with modern thinking on respect for nature. Numerous wild animal experts and organisations, such as Dr Jane Goodall and ENDCAP, strongly oppose the use of primates in advertising and work to raise awareness of these animals’ plight.

What is the Commission's opinion on the exploitation of wild animals for human entertainment? Which directorate authorised the production of this advert using a macaque? Would the Commission sign an international pledge not to use wild animals in its information material in the future?

OJ C 10 E, 14/01/2011