Shutterstock Bans Unnatural Photos of Apes and Monkeys

Shutterstock has banned all unnatural photos of apes and monkeys. The move by the world’s largest subscription-based stock-photo agency comes in response to an appeal by the animal rights organization PETA.

In a letter to Shutterstock, PETA argued that monkeys and apes suffer when used for photo shoots and that photos of them in unnatural settings does harm to conservation efforts while boosting the illegal wildlife trade.

PETA further wrote that the chimpanzee facial expression commonly interpreted as a “grin” by humans is actually a “fear grimace.”

“Great apes used in these images are typically torn away from their mothers shortly after birth, causing lifelong psychological trauma to both mother and infant,” PETA says. “When they reach adolescence, trainers often discard them in substandard facilities where they may be kept alone in small cages for decades.”

In response, Shutterstock has now agreed to ban photos and videos of apes and monkeys in a number of unnatural scenarios, including wearing clothes or accessories, inside a human environment or studio (e.g. in a circus), exhibiting trained behavior (e.g. dancing), and engaging in unnatural interactions with humans (e.g. holding hands or being held).

In addition to real photos, digitally modified photos that place apes and chimpanzees into these “unnatural situations” are also banned from Shutterstock.

Photos that are still allowed include images of these animals in zoos, in natural habitats, and in Asian cities — the macaques that inhabit certain temples in Asia, for example.

“By banning unnatural images of exploited ape and monkey ‘actors,’ Shutterstock has made a huge difference for nonhuman primates, both those in the wild and those suffering in captivity,” says PETA Primatologist Julia Gallucci. “Ad agencies and film and television producers have already moved away from using these harmful images, and we hope other stock-photo providers follow Shutterstock’s lead.”

Image credits: Header illustration based on still frame from Planet of the Apes (1968) by APJAC Productions/20th Century Fox. Ape photo by Sridhar Rangarajan and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0