After last week’s edition of Urchins Take Sides featuring The Hollywood Reporter‘s exposé on the treatment of animals in the entertainment industry, it became clear the first step against such abuse was to boycott any film, television show, or company utilising animals in their production.
Like my decision not to purchase dairy after learning of the farming industry’s abuse of animals, the choice not to support films complicit in animal abuse was quick and easy, made even more so by the betrayal I felt by the artists I have so admired.
This sense of betrayal is only exacerbated by continued revelations of my own easily swayed naivete. Like so many, I was genuinely comforted by the American Human Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval at the end of films. Similarly, when Leonardo DiCaprio was named the global ambassador for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Animal Action campaigns and supported various World Wildlife Fund campaigns, I genuinely believed that he had a commitment to the welfare of animals.
Today I learned that DiCaprio’s new film The Wolf of Wall Street not only features a chimpanzee, but that its inclusion in the film was orchestrated by DiCaprio himself. In a Wall Street Journal interview, DiCaprio recalls perfecting an extravagant scene depicting a real-life occurrence from Jordan Belfort’s memoir, upon which the film is based:
I said, ‘Jordan also mentioned that he had a chimpanzee on roller skates in a diaper that was handing out tickets to all the stockbrokers.’ And Marty’s like, ‘That’s great, how do we get a chimpanzee?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he’s like, ‘All right, somebody get on it.’
The article continues:
Scorsese’s longtime producer Emma Tillinger laughs. “The party scene was choreographed to the T,” she says. “We’d auditioned marching bands, hired the animals, then Marty calls. I’m like, ‘Well, there’s a chimpanzee who can roller-skate, but it’s in Florida.’ ”
“Next thing you know,” DiCaprio continues, chuckling, “there’s a chimpanzee, and I’m toting him around the salesroom.”
It has since been revealed that the aforementioned chimpanzee works both in entertainment and as part of the travelling circus Rosaire-Zoppe Chimps, a company, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been “cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with repeatedly failing to provide chimpanzees with enough space, repeatedly failing to handle chimpanzees in a manner that ensured their safety and that of the public, and repeatedly failing to provide chimpanzees with environmental enrichment.”
Apparently DiCaprio takes his role as International Fund for Animal Welfare global ambassador as seriously as the American Humane Association takes their responsibility for ensuring the well-being of animals on sets. PETA reports that the American Humane Association intentionally assigned the chimpanzee used in The Wolf of Wall Street “a representative who is not experienced with primates, rather than its primatologist.”
After months of anticipating the reunion of The Departed and Shutter Island‘s DiCaprio and Scorcese tour de force, I am devastated to have to boycott the film, but more devastated about the filmmakers’ blaisé use and abuse of a chimpanzee in the production. How easy it is to pick on those unable to defend themselves.
To help give the chimpanzee used in The Wolf of Wall Street a voice, consider signing this petition from PETA asking DiCaprio not to work with great apes again (he already ignored their previous petition asking for the scene to be removed from the film).