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¿Why do wild animals suffer in the audiovisual industry? Questions and answers you should know.


¿Where do wild animals used in audiovisual documents come from?

Most wild animals used in advertising, film and TV have been born in captivity, but in some cases, especially in elephants, they are caught from the wild.

Many animals come from circuses, zoos or private collections that earn a "bonus" by renting them out. Companies dedicated to training and renting wild animals for filming have proliferated lately. Some of these have legal complaints for lack of licenses or for animal abuse, such as Corax or Malpartida.

Sometimes these animals are kept in appalling conditions as in the case of Nico and Sara, two chimpanzees who lived in cages so small they could barely turn around or Tarzán and Loti, kept inside the trailer of a truck, until their rescue.

LThe harsh environmental and psychological conditions in which most of these animals live can cause them traumas and psychological problems so severe that they can last for the rest of their lives – which in the case of chimpanzees can be up to 60 years.

¿Aren’t animals born in captivity, already used to a captive life?

All wild animals, whether born in the wild or in captivity, have a number of biological and social needs that must be met in order to ensure a minimum welfare.

Although born in captivity, wild animals do not ever get used to living in confined spaces without adequate environmental and social enrichment for their species. The conflict between their natural instincts and the reality that they are forced to live in leads them to carry out unnatural behaviors such as those stereotypic ones - repeated obsessively and which indicate a lack of adaptation to their environment. In other words, they become crazy.

¿But aren’t these animals domesticated?

Domestication is a process through which, after hundreds of generations interacting with, and being selected by, humans, some animal species have acquired certain morphological, physiological or behavioral characteristics that benefit humans. Wild animals like bears, big cats and elephants, have not spent enough generations in captivity to have lost, for example, the fear of humans, and our mere presence distresses them.

In an attempt to create a bond with the animals, many trainers separate cubs from their mothers at an early age and bottle raise them to try to imprint the animals - instead of their real mothers- and thus have the animals obey them. However, when these animals reach sexual maturity they often become aggressive even with the people who have cared for them since they were cubs.

Also, if they were domesticated, it would not be necessary to sedate them, amputate their claws, seal their mouths or cut off their fangs as is often done with some wild animals. Declawing is regularly practice to facilitate handling of big cats and to reduce the risks to people. This brutal and painful practice cuts off the third phalanx of each finger up to the joint, also amputating bone, nerves, ligaments and tendons.

The pain can be excruciating and chronic as it may damage nerves or the pads and modification of the foot's structure can lead to abnormalities in their gait and to back and joint problems. This removal may even affect the animal's personality, either making them more apathetic or more nervous, skittish and therefore aggressive. Some then try to defend themselves with their fangs (which is also common to pull out or sand down)

Also to avoid attacks, it is common to sedate animals. So it is not so obvious that the animal has been tranquilized, and to make it pose, sometimes they spray water on their faces or provoque them with pieces of meat.


¿How are the animals trained?

Getting an animal to act as a human or against their nature requires a long process that usually takes place behind closed doors: what happens inside is between the coach and the animal.

The basis of any wild animal training either for circuses, advertising, television, etc.. is to keep the animals in a constant state of fear and submission under their trainers’ dominance. The methods for accomplishing this usually involve physical violence accompanied by verbal violence.

In the case of chimpanzees, for example, the training tends to start from the first year of age and as they grow, gradually more complex tricks are imposed on them that will require greater concentration. Most trainers do not hesitate to use any method in their hands for maximum discipline. The “artistic” life of a chimpanzee ends at about six years of age, as from then on they become stronger than any man and can behave unruly, so most are then discarded.

The ex-worker of Amazing Animal Actors, a company that rents primates, recounts in this chilling article the brutality of the daily treatment of animals.

¿Aren’t these animals happy?

Humans tend to anthropomorphize animals, to attribute characteristics that are unique to us, but not them. However, what may look to us like happy smiles or gestures may not have any meaning for them, go against their body or social language or may even be in their own "repertoires" grimaces of fear.

¿Did you know the typical chimpanzee giggle which we are so used to seeing on the screen is for them an expression of panic?

These animals can live in a constant state of stress and fear and try to protect themselves from people by showing aggressiveness. There are numerous cases of attacks by animals to their caregivers, who usually lavish their love for them. For example, this case of a bear that killed his trainer. Thus declawing or pulling the fangs off the animals is common to avoid harm to people.

Some species, like most primates, are highly social and need the company of others of their species, but it is usual to keep them in isolation. And this isolation alone can be regarded as maltreatment, psychological in this case.

¿What happens to the animals when they are no longer appropriate for audiovisual productions?

When they are no longer profitable, their lives become, if possible, even more miserable. Many of them are kept in cages and used for breeding - perpetuating the use and animal abuse, sold to zoos or other facilities, or simply euthanized.

The lack of control of wild animals in captivity by the authorities is a matter of serious concern, There is no record of how many animals and of what species are used for entertainment. Nonetheless of what happens to them when they are "retired".

Animals that have been a lure for large companies and multinationals have ended their days confined in small cages for years. In a few cases, these animals have been rescued by associations, foundations, sanctuaries and private rescue centers. However, there are very few rescue centers in the world and most have limited resources.

This article in 20 minutes clearly illustrates the fate of these animals

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