Primate Rescue Center

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Courts Chimp Controversy

Erika Fleury November 17, 2013

The new movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is facing criticism from leading animal protection organization Animal Defenders International (ADI) for featuring a chimpanzee ‘actor’, ahead of its US release.

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ star Leonardo DiCaprio is known for his passion for saving wildlife, yet is clearly unaware of the cruelty of using animals in movies after appearing with a chimpanzee wearing roller skates and clothes in trailers for the upcoming film.

ADI has written to The Wolf of Wall Street Director, Martin Scorsese, and star Leonardo DiCaprio, revealing the horror of life for animals used in movies and urging them to pledge not to work on films using live animals in future.

The young chimpanzee used in the film, named Chance, is kept at the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to being hired out for films, Chance is subjected to a life of constant travel and confinement as part of the travelling circus, Rosaire-Zoppe Chimps. Chance is forced to ride ponies, dress in clothes and endure long journeys to perform at fairs and events. The use of animals in circuses is becoming rapidly unpopular, with many bans and restrictions on their use in the US and other countries [for a complete listing of those countries, read the notes on the original press release here].

Chance has been at the centre of an animal protection controversy before, when he featured in a commercial for Tropicana. The orange juice company swiftly pulled the advert after a storm of protests against the cruel and inappropriate use of animals in entertainment.

Jan Creamer, ADI President: “The intelligence, emotional capabilities and social needs of chimpanzees are beyond doubt and the argument against their use in movies and circuses is overwhelming. ADI investigations reveal that discipline and abuse can be kept hidden off-set, while the animals are being trained or kept isolated in their cages. I ask Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to have no part in exploiting vulnerable animals like Chance and stamp out animal suffering hidden within the entertainment industry by cutting the scene from the DVD, and pledging not to work with ‘animal actors’ in future.”

ADI undercover investigations have revealed violence and electric shocks used to train elephants to perform the tricks in the movies ‘Water for Elephants’ and ‘Zookeeper’, both of which received an American Humane Association assurance. Like most primates used to perform, Chance was likely taken from his mother at birth.

Years of studies have shown that animal welfare is inevitably compromised in travelling circuses, with severe confinement inevitable and physical abuse commonplace, and the public – in the US and worldwide – is voting with their feet and choosing to visit humane, human-only acts instead.

In captivity, animals are deprived of all the normal, social and mental stimulation that these animals would enjoy in the wild. They live in barren environments, where they remain until wanted for a performance. They are trained to do tricks and their compliance may be gained through a withdrawal of food, water or affection.

Actors speaking out with ADI against the use of animals in entertainment include: Ricky Gervais, Bob Barker, Sir Paul McCartney, Jorja Fox, Brian May, Lynsey de Paul and Corey Feldman.

On November 15, the same release day as The Wolf of Wall Street, ADI’s film Lion Ark following the epic rescue of lions and other animals from circuses in Bolivia will begin a 7 day screening in New York and Los Angeles. 

For more information, please contact 

Fleur Dawes, Animal Defenders International
Tel: 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548
Email: prdesk@ad-international.org

- Animal Defenders International

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