New Scorsese Film Slammed For Using Chimpanzee "Actor"
One of the Christmas season mainstream film releases is the latest Martin Scorsese offering. The Wolf of Wall Street. Based on the biography of Wall Street rogue stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. The movie serves up a heady cocktail of excessive behavior, such as massive drug use, money squandering, debauchery and âkeeping a rollerskating pet chimpanzee in the office.â â ââThe Wolf of Wall Street â âhas âreceived mixed reviewâs while the use of a live chimpanzee in a film has been met with dismay by animal rights activists, who accuse Scorsese of abusing Chance (the chimpanzeeâs name) by forcing him to perform.
Leading a campaign to boycott the film is Friends of Animals, which on Tuesdayââ âaâât the New York premiereâ confronted the filmâs star for not objecting to act alongside the great ape. âFoAâ took DiCaprio to task because he heads a conservation organization, which makes his stance towards the chimpanzee all the more surprising considering the increasing cultural rejection of animal âabuseâ.
In an article about Hollywoodâs track record in animal exploitation, FoAâs Edita Birnkrant outlines an exposâÃ©â of Chanceâs life story and the cruel teaching methods of his circus animal trainer, Pam Rosaire. âWith so much information available, thiâs âfaux-pas by Scorcese and his team is totally out of line with current thought on great apes. A couple of years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report, âChimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity." It concluded âthat the use of chimpanzees for invasive biomedical research is unnecessaryâ. Since then, âgreat apesâ in government âcustodyâ are being retired âand âsent to Chimp Haven âsanctuary in Louisiana, where they will live out their remaining yearsâ. â â
All of this makes the use of chimpanzee in The Wolf of Wall Street even more âoutrageous. âBesides, it was a fictional addition to the real story on which it was based. âThere was never a chimpanzee in the office," Porush said. "There were no animals in the office ... I would also never abuse an animal in any way." âPerhaps Scorsese thought a chimpanzee in an office would add a touch of freaky eccentricity to his protagonistâ. But what he did not think about is how much suffering the training of a great ape entails. â â â
Chimpanzees used in entertainment are usually discarded once they get too old to control. Primarily Primates is one of the sanctuaries that houses rescued âchimpanzees fromâ theirâ abusers. âIân 1986 they became home to Willie and Okko, who had been used in Project X, but were taken to the sanctuary after a lawsuit against the filmâs producerâs alleged abuse and mistreatment of chimps by their trainers. The sanctuary says the chimpanzees, who âare still alive, show signs of traumaâ to this dayâ. âWillie, star of the Project X film still runs away in fear when he sees cameras. Another chimp, exhibited neurotic behaviors like rocking and clutching,â said Brooke Chavez, assistant director of âthe sanctuary. â
Animal welfare is a social responsibility issue, and itâs only going to get bigger, as more documentaries come out and a younger generation is being brought up to see non-humans in a more respectful âand ethical âlight. In the face of these facts, their use in entertainment appears even more reprehensible, especially with the availability of digital tools such as CGI. There simply is no excuse.
Image credit: Primarily Primates