Halfords targeted over use of chimps in TV commercial

LONDON – An animal rights group has slammed car and bicycle store Halfords and called for it to pull its latest television ad campaign, which features chimpanzees dressed in clothes and acting as humans.

The Captive Animals' Protection Society says the use of chimps, which share 99.4% of man's DNA, is unacceptable and is campaigning to have the campaign pulled.

The TV spot is part of a £2.7m campaign created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and launched last week. Media planning and buying was through OMD UK.

It features a cast of tracksuit-clad chimps, who play with products such as audio and car accessories, and cycles. The spot features the endline "With our deals you pay peanuts, so we thought we'd give you monkeys".

Craig Redmond, CAPS campaigns officer, said: "Chimpanzees are extremely intelligent animals with highly complex needs and should not be subjected to the humiliation and distress of being trained and dressed to perform in this manner, which clearly seeks to ridicule them."

He added: "The use of chimpanzees in this way is totally unacceptable. They are an endangered species in the wild who share 99.4% of our genetic identity, and to ridicule them by dressing them up and using them in commercials diminishes their status as animals deserving protection."

Halfords has defended the ads and refused to pull them. It said the ads used professional animal trainers and were cleared by television advertising watchdog and added it is happy to run the spots.

In a statement, Halfords PR manager Dave Evans said: "The recent series of advertisements for Halfords featuring chimpanzees were filmed in America under the supervision of professional animal trainers. From the outset, the script was approved by the Broadcast Advertisers Clearance Centre, part of the ITC."

He added: "Throughout the process, we strictly adhered to the rules and regulations, which are in place for the protection of the animals, and are therefore happy to run the ads."

In response to Halfords' refusal to immediately withdraw the ads, CAPS has produced a leaflet, poster and petition encouraging people to boycott the store and complain to its head office. A series of protests outside a number of Halfords 400 stores is now being planned using the slogan "On your bike Halfords".

According to CAPS, other companies have realised their past mistakes in using chimpanzees in commercials. In February 2002, Grolsch pulled a TV spot featuring chimps and pledged never to use the apes again following a complaint from CAPS.

PG Tips also ended their use of chimps last year and replaced its famous chimps with animatronic creatures.

CAPS argue that there are numerous welfare problems created by using chimps in commercials and that it is usually only young chimps that are used because adults are too strong to handle, which it says creates more breeding in captivity with young taken away from their mothers.

The group says that there is also evidence of chimps having their teeth removed to stop them biting, as well as training by electric-shock collars and other cruelty.

According to primatologist Dr Jane Goodall: "Do you realise that the chimpanzee's smile so often seen on TV is actually a grin of fear? These trained performers suffer greatly for our amusement."

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