People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sent a letter to PokerShare.com urging them to give up their idea of entering Mikey the chimpanzee in a poker tournament and to stop using him for promotions. The animal rights group has several concerns about the marketing ploy.
"All chimpanzees trained to perform have been torn away from their mothers - a traumatic process that scars both mother and baby for life," said PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "PokerShare.com is gambling with Mikey's well-being."
Mikey is a 5-year-old chimpanzee. According to PETA, baby apes in the wild stay with their mothers for eight years or even a lifetime, but those used for entertainment purposes are taken from their mothers while they're young enough to control. Once they reach age 8, when they would naturally leave their mother and enter an adult chimpanzee life, they're too powerful to control for use in television or promotions.
The PETA news release stated that Mikey is from a company that has been repeatedly cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for having insufficient experience and knowledge to safely control Mikey around members of the public, failure to provide animals with veterinary care and environment enrichment, as well as other violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
PETA also pointed out in that behind-the-scenes training of baby apes is routinely carried out with the use of electric-shock prods and beatings. As a result of such abuse, ape attacks on spectators and handlers can and do occur.
PokerShare.com had hoped to sponsor Mikey to play in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event. When Mikey was denied entry into the tournament, PokerShare.com said they were still interested in sponsoring the chimp for another tournament and also plan to use Mikey's image as the new face of the site.
PETA hopes the site will abandon these plans and instead follow in the footsteps of other companies such as Yahoo! Inc., Honda, Puma, and Keds by agreeing not to use great apes for advertisement.