Monkeys and the Taliban

The headline is appalling – Taliban training monkeys to fight? – but not shocking. Considering the value the regime places on the education, treatment, and very lives of women and girls, it’s no surprise they’d show similar lack of humanity to animals.

As I watched the CNN clip, my hostility simmered and eventually brimmed over. But I became less angry at an enemy thousands of miles away and more unnerved with events taking place in “the modern world.”

The piece begins with an image of a monkey riding cowboy style on a dog. Cut to a clip of another monkey, serving beer and collecting ashtrays in a dingy restaurant. Toward the end, we see a close-up of a chained monkey with a metal collar around his neck. Throughout, CNN reporter Jeanne Moos perkily announces each shot like she’s rattling off daytime television listings.

A monkey on a stage is not, in and of itself, abject cruelty – animals in this country, and abroad, endure much worse every day. But it’s not harmless entertainment either. The treatment of primates who are used for human exploitation – whether it be under the guise of entertainment, research, zoo exhibits, or otherwise – ranges from adequate to barbaric. (And yes, I do recognize a difference between entertainment and medical research; I will address that in another post.)

So while squeezing a monkey into a cowboy outfit is not the worst offense in the world, the tone in which the piece was produced was wholly inappropriate. The reporter punned and quipped, thrust a stuffed animal monkey at the camera, and dodged bananas hurled from off-screen.

Maybe I’m the only one who isn’t amused. Somehow though, I just can’t get myself to applaud a couple of orangutans dressed In boxing gear, duking it out in a fighting ring. Or a monkey leashed from his back, walking on stilts. Or being strapped into a steel compartment and sent into space. Moos was not personally inflicting great harm, but please: don’t promote the idea that animals are here for our entertainment.

The original report, alleging the Taliban is training monkeys to fight, first posted in China’s “People’s Daily Online.” But CNN eventually discredited the story, claiming it couldn’t be corroborated. Meanwhile, a few stories that can be.