Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Monkeys for Entertainment

While working the county fairs this summer, I saw a few cases of animal exploitation. There was a bear show and a big cat show. I didn't have the opportunity to watch them or to talk to the owners. At every fair, there was some sort of pony ride or some poor pony tethered in front of a back drop all day, so people could pay to have pictures taken on it. This is animal exploitation, and no one should pay to use animals for entertainment.

At my last county fair, there was a monkey man. He had two different monkeys whom he brought out for two different shifts; afternoon and night. Each monkey was out for 2-5 hours depending on the crowd, with a longer shift being ideal. He was right around the corner from me, so he would come through before or after each shift and we would chat. He was a strange and interesting man who definitely fulfilled a lot of the stereotypes we know about "carnies" and circus culture.

The monkeys are capuchins

He walked the monkeys on a chain, specifically a choke chain. The monkeys would walk/run alongside him, holding onto the chain. To me, it looked like they had to run and shuffle to keep up and hold onto the chain so they wouldn't be choked. Watching them was painful to me. But talking to him about their cost and their living situation was worse. Outside of the show, the monkeys lived in a cage inside a mobile home. There's no way that cage could be big enough for the monkeys to be happy. At least, that's how I feel.

We continued to talk about all the monkeys he had owned, the places he goes to show them, the money he makes (or doesn't make), his refusal to sell them. A few times, he brought the monkeys down and they would climb in my lap and hang out with me a bit. They're VERY energetic and unaware of their surroundings. Hot chocolate was spilled, hair was pulled...I could see why a cage might be safer. There is really no way to monkey-proof a house. But if a cage is the safest option, then isn't the best option NOT to domesticate monkeys and use them for show, to earn money? It would seem to me that's the better solution, but then again, I'm whole heartedly against animal exploitation.

The thing is, I don't believe animals are for our entertainment. I don't believe in breeding dogs or cats. I don't believe in owning birds, reptiles, or rodents who have to live in cages. (I have seen some socialized exotic animals, but I still have a hard time believing that a domesticated life is a good option for them.) I do own pets, obviously. I absolutely love my cats, and I rescue all of them, so I believe I am giving them a better life. I don't pay to go to zoos and I try not to pay for shows that involve animals as entertainment (certainly, never attend a circus). I don't think it's appropriate for humans to exercise dominion over animals, and I think the history of animal abuse or neglect and even the common sense of how we have to cage animals versus their wildlife make it pretty clear that the solution is not to domesticate animals or use them for show or for entertainment.

Meeting those monkeys and being able to hang out with them was undoubtedly cool. The monkeys were smart and interesting, and I just wanted to play with them all day! But seeing how they had to perform and learning about their living conditions hurt my heart. Seeing any of the animals at the county fairs being used for entertainment was painful. They all seemed to have such little space and no life. I mean, horses should be free to run around and roll in the grass and monkeys should be getting up to shenanigans in their natural habitat, right?

At least, that's how I see it.

**edit** I differentiate aid animals from animals used for exploitation or as inappropriate pets. I believe that an aid animal can be given a purpose that suits its intelligence and abilities while still maintaining an active, social, and healthy life.


  1. You know, I used to be a big supporter of zoological parks and aquariums. Now, sadly, I see the education part of those places get ignored more often than not, especially working in the school system. For example, my class and a few others were recently scheduled for a field trip to learn about wildlife conservation. Two weeks later, the school organized a freaking balloon release, and determinedly went through with it despite my protests. Sure, some of the ticket money went to a conservation fund. But in the end, a bunch of animals are living their lives in a cage and the kids that are supposed to be learning from them aren't, and the adults aren't even setting a good example.

    1. Yeah. No one really cares. I think it's because there's no direct impact. They can't see why having an animal for entertainment is not a good idea because they can't see or feel what that animal experiences.

  2. I definitely understand and pretty much agree. There are some though that have been taken in for rehabilitation and maybe can't return to the wild (this hits more on zoos and such). That said, I have two animals, a dog that I took for my almost-husband's mother who passed away (she was a shelter dog), and a tarantula. I got the tarantula from an individual who ended up with a bunch of babies. She does live in a cage, but I definitely can't domesticate her... Also, being such a baby I can't socialise her right now cause she's small and fast. I also have her in an enormous habitat. I guess I'm trying to justify myself...


    1. Rescue animals are different. Where would that tarantula be if you hadn't rescued it? I rescued a gerbil and two rats and also two finches. In each situations, I made sure to improve their habitats. I have seen really loved and social turtles, rats, ferrets, iguanas, and bearded dragons. It's not impossible, obviously. A good Instagram friend has a parrot, and she is an animal advocate and knows all about how they're bred. I also know that there are rehabilitation centers attached to zoos and there are "zoos" that have huge habitats where the people can't even see the animals. There's a difference between a preserve, obviously. It's not all black and white, I recognize that.