The image is striking: the long-haired primate locked behind a cage, covered in chains, eyes pleading yet somewhat vacant. This primate looks scared, hungry, not well taken care of. We’ve seen these images before, with shelter dogs and other animals locked in cages. So why was this UK-based ad so controversial?
Because the primate in the ad was a little girl.
Did that catch your attention? Good, that’s exactly what Animal Defenders International (ADI) had in mind. The ad, which was filmed nearly 10 years ago and is shorter than 30 seconds, is entitled My Mate’s a Primate, and was made in an animal rights effort to stop the keeping and exhibition of primates in zoos, circuses, and television advertising.
The ad switched between images of a girl and a chimpanzee, both in chains inside an animal cage.
These disturbing images were too much for the high court and House of Lords of the United Kingdom, which upheld a decision by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre to refuse the airing of the ad.
That’s why ADI decided to push the issue. They appealed the decision in the hopes of being able to finally air this animal rights ad. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg recently and narrowly upheld the lower courts’ decision.
The decision brings up the the concern of freedom of speech, of course. But this concern was specifically addressed by the court:
“Overall, the court found that the reasons given to justify the ban were convincing and that that ban did not therefore go too far in restricting the right to participate in public debate,” the judges stated. They added that the ADI had the ability to use other means to air the ad, aside from broadcast advertising, thus their freedom of speech was not compromised.
It’s a political thing
The UK has a special ban on political advertising. Political advertising of any sort is banned from British TV and radio (imagine that), as a way to ensure that “the political views broadcast into our homes are not determined by those with the deepest pockets,” according to culture secretary Maria Miller. She went on to say that the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre didn’t ban the ad because of the view of the ADI, but because the ad would breach the ban on political advertising in the UK.
Of course one would wonder why then was the appeal accepted for review by the human rights court, if human rights wasn’t the issue …
Either way, the decision doesn’t sit well with ADI’s chief executive Jan Creamer who stated: “This judgment has denied the right of ADI and other similar campaign and advocacy groups to refute advertising claims made by companies.”
While folks who only have broadcast TV at their disposal can’t view the animal rights ad, anyone with the Internet can easily find it, and judge for themselves. Heck, you don’t even have to scour the web for it. Here it is: http://youtu.be/qON_lFQE4HY