"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. " -Helen Keller

Friday, October 02, 2009

Let's Monkey Around

I saw a story on Good Morning America today that got two very distinct reactions from me. The first reaction was "That is seriously fucked up" but , then I thought for a minute, and my second reaction was "Well, I guess it isn't hurting anyone and if it makes them happy, so be it." What was that story you ask? GMA did a story called 'My Monkey Baby': Couples Treat Adopted Monkeys as Children based on information TLC found for their documentary 'My Monkey Baby' which will air Oct. 4th at 9 pm.

The people featured in 'My Monkey Baby' have various reasons for adopting a baby monkey. Some of them don't want to risk repeating a seriously screwed up childhood. Others adopt monkey because they can't have children. One woman resorted to adopting a monkey because she experienced crippling depression when her youngest child moved out. These people all treat their monkeys as real human babies. One couple goes so far as to have a fit if someone refers to their "baby" as a monkey and not as their daughter.

Truthfully, I don't understand this. This really reminds me of the scene in Children of Men (the book...haven't seen the movie) where a woman is parenting a realistic doll because she craves a child and the melt down/devastation she experiences when the doll breaks. I think treating monkeys as children is more than a little delusional and I don't think these people are ehlping their long term mental health. But, like I said before, I guess it isn't really hurting anyone, so who am I to judge.

What is your reaction to all this?


rys said...

I have to disagree that it 'doesn't hurt anyone'. Just this year a woman's pet chimp nearly ripped the face off of her friend. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/world/americas/17iht-chimp.1.20241928.html

These chimps are wild animals, and they grow to be 200+ pounds. It's irresponsible and inhumane to keep a chimp as a pet. 'Travis' (the pet monkey in the above story) was treated like a child. Why he attacked the woman was unclear, but suffice it to say that if Travis was in a proper environment (natural habitat or appropriate conservation facility) he would not have been shot. A chimpanzee needlessly lost his life and a woman went through countless hours of horrible surgery because of his owner's selfishness and irresponsibility.

I'm not ignoring the obvious issues the people in this documentary have, but there are other healthy ways to address the hurt these people are feeling. Adopting a chimp as 'replacement therapy' is wrong and dangerous, unfair to the chimp and dangerous to all involved including the community they live in.

Anonymous said...

In the book, Children of Men, people used cats/kittens as well as dolls as baby replacements.

I am disturbed by the monkey story.

Barb said...

Ooooh I have all kinds of problems with this. If people are worried about messing up a human baby, they should also be worried about messing up any other primate baby. All primates have social rules and needs that have to be met (even when more solitary like orangs), and we as humans do a horrible job of that if we try to raise one from a baby without interaction from its own kind. This can cause lots of stereotypic behaviors and ticks. It's one of the reasons zoos now try so very hard not to have to hand raise infants (of any sort), or at least to only partially hand raise them and train Mom to accept them for some of it.

Also, it's great when the primate is young and cuddly, but even the smallest monkey or ape reaches sexual maturity in roaring fashion. (usually what happens with chimps - not to mention that chimps - especially males.. really are strong enough to rip a man limb from limb) And then they can become very aggressive in their need for an outlet for those urges. They also become more territorial, smelly and all sorts of other lovely things. This often results in the owner being hurt or trying to "donate" the animal somewhere else. It's one of the reasons primates in show business is disturbing b/c many of the full adults end up in cages somewhere, not nearly so cared for for the rest of their lives.

And let's not forget the:
Poop smearing
And zoonotic diseases (A prime example being herpes B that macaques carry. It does not hurt them AT ALL, but kills us in very swift and often horrible fashion, and can be transmitted via bodily fluids and mucous membranes. ie even spit in your eye)

I'd say these people need to figure out their problems before turning to monkeys or apes.

Barb said...

Ooooooooh my.. and just read the piece. Perfect example.. the one couple had their monkeys TEETH removed so that she wouldn't bite them??? I also once knew of a tamarin whose owner had has his tail cut off (very important for balance) b/c it "didn't fit in his diaper."

And I really like the piece about the "Sampey" lady. Good warning story.

Shannon said...

My 2c: I haven't seen the TLC show or the GMA spot. My reaction to your post is just this - it makes me sad to think how lonely people are, how people suffer. Treating a monkey as a baby is just the expression of the suffering, and possibly a bit of alleviation of that suffering. It's heartbreaking.

I think TLC has built an entire network on the concept of "freak shows," and rarely, if ever, does the "documentary" allow for compassion. It's all shock value. And it frightens me, because as a society, and many, many (but not all) individual Americans are sorely lacking in compassion.

Billy said...

Hmmm.. don't agree on the "isn't hurting anyone". What about the monkeys themselves??? These are wild animlas that deserve to live their lives in the wild and not be "pet kids". It is one thing to have a dog or a cat and other animals that humans have domesticated. It is another to take an animal from it's natural habitat and raise it like a kid. At first I thought they took these monkeys away from a cruel life they were having (like animal testing or being in circuses etc) and at least thought they were doing the animal some good (although - no! there are monkey shelters where such monkeys should go to), but then I brieflly looked at the link and saw how they are paying money for these monkeys. Which I translate to poachers hunting down mother monkey and selling babies.

Barb said...

I agree with sympathy, but we shouldn't let our sympathy for people eclipse our sympathy for these animals either. It really shouldn't be legal anywhere. (and sometimes isn't even in the places where these people have them)

battynurse said...

I think the whole monkey baby thing is stupid. How can you really expect others to see your pet monkey as a daughter. You're right that it's delusional. Also to expect others to treat it like a human is unrealistic. There are some seriously strange people out there.