Friday, October 15, 2010

Monkeys and Renee's Soapbox

So it recently came to my attention that a contractor employee had taken in a baby monkey. Of course, every single vendor with a primate on his shoulder is sporting a tiny "orphaned" monkey, because if they actually told the tourists and expats the truth, few would participate in the pictures and adoptions. I'm pretty sure the tourists and expats already know the truth, but the monkeys are just so cute, plus you're helping the income of the handler right? Sure, but at what cost?

Does anyone need a pet monkey? A vervet monkey can have a life span of up to 20 years (normal is 7 to 12). That contractor will not be on the island that long. Plus, we all know that eventually the cute little guy won't be so cute anymore and what then? Well, the seller graciously offered to take the monkey back. Of course, he did. It's a win win for the guy as he sells the monkey to gullible white folks or entrepreneurial locals and then once the primate's too big to be cute anymore (and bites harder), the guy gets the monkey back, sells it to the various vet & medical schools on the island or to international "monkey farms" where they're bred and/or sold to researchers. It's big business, so they fetch a lot of money.

So this contractor is going to bond with this monkey until he gets sick of it, teach the poor little thing love and kindness, and then hand him off to someone who is then going to torture it. I can't tell you how sick this makes me. You wouldn't even do this to a dog (well, most of us wouldn't), and yet a primate which is so much smarter and shares more of a genetic code with us than any other species on the planet, gets treated this way. What has happened to people's consciences. What?

That little monkey may be an orphan, but if it is, it's probably because someone ate the parents or sold them to researchers. More likely, the infant was simply ripped from its mother's tummy.

As far as the argument for research, I must note that the U.S. government requires that anything involving health procedures or pharmaceuticals actually be tested on animals, so let's take that out of the discussion for now. Although I will say here that several researchers have found much better testing methods (animal-free) and are not happy about having to house/test animals just to make the government happy - so maybe they'll change the trend. If interested in the rebuttal to most arguments pro-animal research - here you go; of course, here's the other side. You'll note that you don't even have to dissect animals for anatomy lessons anymore.

What upsets me is how much incredibly tortuous research is engaged in just for the sake of vanity, like make-up or botox. There is no requirement or even suggestion to conduct such tests. Add in the fact that makers of household products also test on animals (just so they can say "don't spray in eyes"), and you've got a lot of hurting critters out there. There are really no rules for anyone to follow, so if someone wants to shoot some hairspray into the eyes of Bunny, Fido or Kitty to see if it burns or blinds him; and then lights a match to see how flammable that was, "accidentally" setting Bunny/Fido/Kitty on fire, they're perfectly able to do so (and do). It's even allowed under the Animal Welfare Act. And that's in a country that actually has such laws. Can you imagine what's happening in other countries? If you wonder how the workers can be so heartless, people can do anything if they think it's for a good cause. Anything. The good news is that plenty of similar companies do not test on animals (Avon, Aveda, etc. - there are many) - so it's obvious that such cruelty is not necessary.

Let's allow that it's ok to torture animals in the name of science and the furthering of medical care (if that's what it does). But if it's animal cruelty when I know that throwing lighter fluid into my cat's eyes is harmful but do it anyway and get a large fine + thrown in jail for up to 2 years, then is it really a stretch to suggest that the CEOs of the cosmetic/household product companies get held accountable for the same? They're going to say it's for the greater good, but we all know that's hogwash. If all those other companies can put products out without mutilating animals and haven't killed anyone yet, then these others don't need to either.

Even if you're for animal testing, you have to admit that teaching this poor monkey (and all the other forced orphans) to trust and love humans and then giving him to someone that is going to do horrible things to him (and not necessarily for the greater good) is not only inhumane but inhuman. Maybe when it's time to give the animal up, I'll be able to convince him to get it into the right hands.

This is one of those few occasions when you actually can do something about it. Don't buy products from companies that are known to test on animals. Click here to see how your favorite products stack up. I was very depressed to see Olay of Olay on the "does" list - sigh. Yes, I will switch. Once I know, how can I not? I have 2 cats and now every time I look into their little faces, will wonder what's happening to a cat in a lab so I can slather on some moisturizer that I could have gotten from Mary Kay or Almay. I love animals. It's as simple as that. I do have choices. So do you. It's not always perfect obviously, and I may not even be making a huge difference in the world (others do much more) but I am making some, and, more importantly, I can live with myself. We all draw our lines in different places in the sand, but the sands are always shifting, are they not?

If you come to St. Kitts, don't pay the vendors to have your picture taken. You really have to question the method behind what orphaned these little guys and be aware of what fate awaits them in the not so distant future. You can almost always see monkeys at Ottley's Plantation playing around the grounds or being fed at the Shipwreck bar on S Friar's Bay. You're guaranteed a sighting of Oliver at Reggae Beach Bar on Cockleshell beach (although he's in a cage, but well-cared for). You'll likely just see them on the roadside (especially early in the morning on the peninsula). Whatever you do, do not adopt a monkey. That's just selfish and cruel (unless he really was an orphan, you didn't cause the hardship, and you'll raise him til death or give him to a sanctuary not a death camp).