Pepsi TV Ad with Chimp Draws Boycott Threat

PRESTON, UK, February, 15, 2005 (ENS) - Primate protection organizations around the world are calling for a boycott of Pepsi products over the use of a young chimpanzee in Pepsi's latest TV commercial. The ad, Monkey Taxi, features the four year old chimp driving a taxi.

The primate advocacy organizations say that using chimps in advertising creates welfare problems and dilutes conservation messages.


Young male chimpanzee. Chimps are not monkeys, but apes. (Photo by Frans de Waal courtesy CITES)
Craig Redmond, campaigns officer for the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) said, "Chimpanzees and other Great Apes used in commercials often live a miserable life of restriction and violence. They are only used at a young age because they become too difficult to handle after adolescence, so they are ripped from their family to be trained and made to perform."

"Until Pepsi agrees to pull this offensive commercial and pledge to stop using primates in future ads, CAPS is encouraging conscientious consumers to boycott all Pepsi products," said Redmond.

According to Pepsi, the Monkey Taxi ad was filmed in Spain and the chimp used was just four years old, an age at which, in the wild, she would be with her family learning essential skills such as using tools to find food, the primate advocates said.

Ian Redmond, chief consultant to the UN Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) believes that the use of primates in advertising and entertainment also diminishes their status in the public's perception as an endangered species.

"Using chimps in commercials such as this just encourages poachers to think they can make money by selling baby chimps, which they capture by killing their parents. Each animal sold on the international market represents a fraction of those killed," said Ian Redmond.

"The UN is set to pass a Declaration on the importance of Great Apes this year. The use of chimps in TV ads damages the global conservation message," he said.

The Captive Animals' Protection Society has been successful in other campaigns against companies that use chimps in ads. Two months ago, sportswear company Puma pulled its TV ad Chimp because of worldwide protests.


Chimpanzee acts the part of a drunken derelict in a TV commercial that was never broadcast due to the protest of primate protection groups. (Photo courtesy CAPS)
In addition, last year's commercial for the drinks industry backed Portman Group was never broadcast following an Ape Alliance campaign. This commercial, made by M&C Saatchi for the Portman Group aims to promote responsible alcohol use with the message, "Don't be a drunken monkey."

Ian Redmond, who is the father of two 19 year old sons, said, "The target audience for this ad has grown up watching TV programmes that reveal the true behavior of apes in the wild, and the threats that they face, and many viewers are more likely to be left discussing the ethics of using apes in commercials than discussing the problems caused by binge drinking.

In past campaigns, more than 30 international organizations and conservationists, including Dr. Jane Goodall, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, have signed letters expressing their disapproval of the use of apes in commercials, and calling for such advertisements to be pulled.

A similar campaign is being co-ordinated against the new Pepsi ad.