Friday, February 3, 2012

The brutality that CareerBuilder doesn't want you to know about

I don’t know if CareerBuilder is deliberately misrepresenting the situation with the chimpanzees they used in their Super Bowl ad, or if their social media manager just doesn’t understand. 
On CareerBuilder's Facebook page today, somebody posted the brilliant statement from Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society president,that tore into CareerBuilder’s use of chimpanzees in advertising. The CB social media manager replied that “the Humane Society was present on set.”
Uh, no they weren’t. And you, Mr. or Ms. Social Media Manager, should know that. The organization that was “on set” was the American Humane Association, the much smaller group that gives companies the seal of approval that says “no animals were harmed during the filming…” yadda, yadda, yadda. Which is beside the point anyway when you talk about the years of training – and brutality – a chimpanzee has to endure before the filming starts.

I know the kind of training they receive. I know the terror chimps feel. My dad was a violent man, punching mom and whipping us kids and, as a chimp trainer, he was no less brutal. Ah, you say, but that was in the 1950s and 1960s, and the chimp training profession is so much more humane these days.
In the 1930s, the Detroit Zoo made
Jo Mendi carry the cane he was beat with.
Wrong.
Just as CareerBuilder has not progressed beyond the slapstick ridicule of chimpanzees that was so popular during the last century, chimpanzee training reeks today like it stunk 60 years ago.
But don’t take my word for it. Read testimony delivered by Sarah Baeckler in October 2003, after she spent more than a year as a volunteer at Amazing Animal Actors, a chimpanzee training compound that provides performers for film and television. I warn you, it isn’t easy reading.
“The events I witnessed horrified me,” Sarah testified. “I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I saw sickening acts of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse every single day on the job.”
“The trainers physically abuse the chimpanzees for various reasons, but often for no reason at all. If the chimpanzees try to run away from a trainer, they are beaten. If they bite someone, they are beaten. If they don’t pay attention, they are beaten. Sometimes they are beaten without any provocation or for things that are completely out of their control.”
Sarah goes on to relate the brutality that she saw. It is so difficult to stomach the violence. I don’t know why, but my heart especially broke when she talked about Sable.  
“Sable is another of the younger chimpanzees. She is very inquisitive and is always watching what you are doing, taking it all in. I was warned that she would not hesitate to bite me if she thought she could get away with it, and that I should feel free to ‘clock’ her if she did. I played with Sable fairly easily inside the cage and didn’t have any major problems with her, but when I took her out to change her diaper, I had very little control over her.”
“One day in August 2002, a female trainer who was watching me said, ‘don’t be afraid to just hit her.’ I hesitated, so the trainer demonstrated for me: she made a fist and punched Sable in the head with her right hand, just above her left eye. Sable screamed and jumped tighter into my arms, no longer squirming. The trainer had to wave her hand like this to shake off the pain – she had hit Sable that hard.”
And it gets worse.
“Because Sable has such a curious nature, she continued to test her limits, and she continued to suffer for it. Over several months between September 2002 and June 2003, I witnessed trainers punching her in the back, kicking her in the head, and throwing objects at her including a rock, a mallet, and a sawed-off broom handle.”
I’m sure that when Sable got to her job, on the set, she was a good little performer. When the American Humane Association watched, they could attest that her trainers didn’t beat her on the set. Just as they did for the chimpanzees in the CareerBuilder ad.
But AHA won't speak of the brutality the chimpanzees go through when they are not on the set. And CareerBuilder doesn't want you to know that.

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