Use as performers / entertainers
When macaques are used as entertainers, they face all the same welfare issues that pet macaques face. They may face additional welfare harms, too - for example, inhumane training methods; frequent transport, frequent exposure to large crowds and the attendant heightened risk of zoonotic disease transmission.
They may be forced to wear costumes, adopt unnatural postures or perform unnatural movements such as riding bicycles, walking, or standing on their hind legs for long periods of time. This can cause damage to monkeys’ joints and muscles.
Performing macaques are usually captured from the wild as infants and removed from their mothers. Behind the scenes, the macaques are often subjected to cruel treatment and physical violence to instil fear, ensuring that they perform as required.
During live shows or photo sessions, macaques are subjected to close contact with numerous unfamiliar people. They may be continually handled, and passed around for hours while people take photographs and selfies. Such interactions are extremely stressful for these wild animals, and can also expose them to dangerous pathogens, both known and unknown. It also exposes the humans involved to the risk of disease - even, potentially, to dangerously mutated viruses.
Like pet macaques, it is not uncommon for them to grow increasingly dangerous as they reach maturity, and attacks have occurred.
Less frequently, macaques are used as labourers (for example, on coconut farms in Thailand). The issues that these monkeys face are largely the same as those faced by “entertainer” macaques.
Apart from the direct welfare consequences to individual macaques and the danger posed to humans, the use of wild animals as entertainers misleads audiences about their conservation status and their suitability as human companions. It is likely that this has an effect on people’s behaviour towards wild animals, macaques included.
Tourists and travel companies are often unaware of the terrible psychological and physical cost to the macaques involved for the sake of “entertainment”.
Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) are used to amuse people in a cultural tradition known as 'sarumawashi' (or monkey performance). The monkeys are forced to wear costumes and face masks while carrying out circus tricks and acrobatics to entertain the crowds, in street festivals or other venues like bars or restaurants.
Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), are used in street performances known as ‘topeng monyet' or 'masked monkey'. They are dressed in clothes with a doll’s head attached to their own heads and forced to perform, often riding small motorcycles. They beg for money from passersby. Training usually involves physical violence; to get monkeys to walk on their hind legs, the monkeys may be hung upside down or forced to stand up straight with the use of chains. Although a ban has been introduced in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia, the practice still takes place, mainly because of a lack of implementation and enforcement.
Cultural traditions can be difficult to change, even if cruelty to wild animals is involved. But progress is possible.
Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) works to end the practice of 'topeng monyet.' In 2013, they were successful in securing a ban in Jakarta, which has extended to other parts of Indonesia. The practice, however, is still taking place, especially in East and Central Java, mainly because of a lack of enforcement. JAAN has also campaigned successfully for these monkeys to be confiscated, and they have already been able to rescue, rehabilitate and release many of these monkeys, who now live freely on an island off the coast of Java. Visit JAAN’s website to learn more.
Organisations can work to promote macaque-friendly attitudes and understanding, both on a local and a global level.
The Animal Neighbours Project developed a multidisciplinary stakeholder partnership in Malaysia and included the formation of local action groups to improve the interactions between humans and monkeys in their area. AfA Coalition member World Animal Protection runs a campaign on animal-friendly travel, designed to ensure that travellers’ actions on holiday don’t support animal suffering, and also lobby the international travel industry to stop promoting attractions that cause wildlife to suffer. Coalition member Animals Asia has similarly lobbied global tour operators and the publishers of popular travel guides to exclude such listings.
In December, 2020, the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) banned the use of monkeys for entertainment purposes. In India, the practice is also banned. Several AfA Coalition members, including Four Paws and Born Free, campaign internationally for such bans on an ongoing basis.