The screen legend sent a letter today to the company, along with a copy of her video exposé, explaining how great-ape “actors” are torn from their mothers as babies, violently trained, and then left to languish in cramped cages after they grow too large to control. The top 10 U.S. advertising agencies have implemented policies against using great apes in their ads, and just this month, Great Clips and Pizza Factory joined the many companies that have pulled ads featuring great apes after hearing from PETA.
“I am distraught over the fact that Steak ’n Shake is running a television commercial featuring a chimpanzee, even though company executives have learned about the issue of using primates in advertising from PETA,” she wrote. "Many advances in protecting chimpanzees have been made over the past few years, and numerous top ad agencies now refuse to use these animals. Enclosed is a five-minute video that I narrated for PETA to illustrate what happens to these highly intelligent great apes in the ad trade. Please take a moment to watch it.
“Problems begin soon after birth for chimpanzees used in show business. Chimpanzee mothers are fiercely protective of their young, so in order to take chimpanzee babies away from them prematurely, they must be tricked, sedated, or forcibly restrained while their babies are torn from their arms. This wrenching experience sends mothers into a deep depression and instills fear in the infants. In nature, chimpanzees stay at their mothers’ side until age 7 and maintain lifelong social bonds with their families.
“Young chimpanzees are playful and curious by nature, but such attributes don’t translate well to a commercial set, where we know that a botched take means wasted time and money. Trainers, therefore, want the animals to know who’s boss and that “misbehavior” will result in pain and punishment. Starting as early as age 2, chimpanzees are trained with beatings.
“When chimpanzees are about 8 years old, they become too strong to handle and are usually relegated to a cage at a roadside zoo. PETA’s investigations have found that former “celebrity” chimpanzees are denied the basic necessities of proper food and vet care and are confined to cramped cages amid garbage and feces. That’s why I’m so pleased that recent films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes have employed alternative methods instead of live animals and still been praised for their breathtaking visuals.
“Innovative companies use animatronics or computer-generated imagery. You could easily adopt one of these methods or find another way to advertise your restaurants. May I please hear from you that Steak ’n Shake has thought better of this old-fashioned approach to advertising and will no longer air this commercial or any other commercials that feature great apes? These chimpanzees are destined to endure a lifetime of abuse for your 30-second spot—a point that no compassionate person would find funny in the least.”