Celebrities and their Exotic Pets, Is it Wrong?

Justin Bieber is yet another undeservedly touted public figure who has accumulated as many people who resent his popularity as there are the naïve prepubescent crowd responsible for his status.

Up until now, I’ve successfully ignored his, in my opinion, sub-par musicality and whatever other talents are appointed upon him, as long as he didn’t garner more publicity for wearing fur or other unnecessary death fashion.

Unfortunately, now this celebrity will impact a group of people who already receive enough lashes from the public merely for owning certain non-domesticated animal species as pets.

News of Bieber’s ‘pet monkey’ has invaded many vapid celebrity gossip sites as well as those with more substance, highlighting an uncommon but important issue that many animals kept as pets face: people who likely shouldn’t even own a Chia Pet obtaining high-maintenance exotics.

Justin Bieber is getting a lot of attention for the confiscation of his pet capuchin monkey named Mally, who is said to have been given to him by his manager who is certainly also at fault, yet his previous exotic pet aroused less attention.

Bieber was also the temporary owner of an albino boa constrictor which he brought to the MTV Video Music Awards before he peddled the animal off in an auction. The winning bidder denounced the action, stating

"I found it really disgusting that celebrities like Bieber would stoop to a level of using living creatures as a fashion accessory and then so easily discard it"

which is the proper attitude to have in the normal moral world of responsible pet care.

It isn’t likely, however, that the immensely famous pop star considered the ethics of casually obtaining animals in a manner not unlike that of inanimate objects, and snakes at least are not animals that bond to their owners or experience profound anxiety as a result of social-related stress.

A monkey is everything that this describes and more. If a person with no animal 'smarts' or an awareness of pet ethics is going to buy an animal, a monkey is probably the worst choice short of a Bengal Tiger or elephant. Simply put, they are very demanding socially and physically, and potentially destructive and violent in the hands of the wrong owners.

Wild Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica.
Wild Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica. | Source

Pet Monkey Criticism

However, responsible monkey ownership is not impossible. Bieber's manager's idiotic decision to give a monkey as a 'gift' is once against sparking the tired rhetoric that people shouldn't own any pet other than a cat or dog (there are also those who are against owning these).

I concur that pet primates are a significant issue because they are as demanding as they are a popular media figure and people are enticed to purchase them with little clue of what they are getting in to, but the inflammatory hyperbole present over the issue is not misguided.

Articles written like this one by Mark Silver for National Geographic rail against all primate ownership with inane, typical generalizations, such as discussing chimpanzees, which are worlds away from monkeys and lemurs.

The most confounding factor in his article is the criticism of the organization Helping Hands, which raises capuchin monkeys to help disabled people who cannot do imperative things for themselves. The group has much testimony from these people on how their monkeys have significantly and positively changed their lives.

Silver calls the organization a "scam" just because monkeys are not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act as service animals and accuses them of animal cruelty with no evidence.

Most people fail to realize that anti-pet ownership sentiment has the same origin and is no different from the sentiment that attacks burger eating and milk drinking, therefore it is essential to remain open-minded when reading the biased attacks of certain groups and individuals.

Criticism of celebrities owning exotic pets

Another celebrity made smaller headlines today when actress Tippi Hedren, famous for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, called out actress Kirstie Alley for her pet lemur menagerie that she maintains on her property.

From what information I can observe, Alley is an example of a celebrity that is actually properly caring for her animals, and by this, I mean she is not caring for them.

It’s not likely that Alley has expertise in caring for high maintenance exotic pets like her 9 lemurs (it is stated that Alley has kept lemurs for “decades” but not stated if it is direct), as such animals would require a lifestyle that can't be accommodated by the travel-heavy lifestyle that celebrities indulge in.

Alley has hired two workers (described as ‘zoo-keepers’ by tabloid sites) to care for her lemurs in the same fashion as Michael Jackson’s popular animal collection (which included the most demanding primate of all outside of humans).

Of course, Jackson never cared for his animals directly, but he had the funds to ‘buy’ people who could, which is perfectly fine.

Alley reportedly spends $40,000 a year to keep her ‘pets’, and unlike Bieber’s monkey, they are not being isolated from their own species. The lemurs are also in Alley’s will, another intelligent move. What is the issue here?

Yes, THIS person is criticizing Christie Alley's pet lemurs

Tippi Hedren in the 70's with an African lion in her house
Tippi Hedren in the 70's with an African lion in her house | Source

Tippi Hedren's exotic pet past

Tippi Hedren has a lot of experience with the exotic pet trade. In the 70s, she was a prolific exotic pet owner, obtaining hundreds of lions to perform in her film ROAR, only to irresponsibly keep some of the animals as personal pets later on.

Now in modern times, she’s drastically changed her tune, but she gets to keep her exotic pet collection in the form of an ‘animal sanctuary’ (Shambala, which was home to Micheal Jackson's two tigers), while chastising other people for pursing exotic pets in a far more responsible fashion than she did so in her past.

Hedren states that Alley’s lemurs are endangered, which they are, in the wild.

Captive bred animals do not affect the status of wild animals, and such animals will never be used for reintroduction purposes (Hedren and other animal rights activists believe that wild animal captivity is immoral and that captive animals should never be bred anyway).

Unfortunately, the word ‘endangered’ is a misused term used by members of the animal rights movement to illicit emotion from the less educated public.

The Humane Society's Nicole Paquette also states in the article

“Many people emulate celebrities but not everyone can take care of wild animals correctly."

That is true, but how is this Alley’s problem? It is akin to blaming Marilyn Manson or video games for school shootings.

She has the right to keep her animals.

In conclusion, Bieber is an example of a very poor exotic pet owner (his first monkey now resides in a rescue in Germany).

A responsible owner would realize that a monkey, let alone a baby monkey, is highly unsuited for world travel in its early essential months of development.

Monkeys and primates are controversial as pets, as they should be, but there are responsible primate owners existing and ethical ways to maintain them. Many people have doom and gloom perceptions of monkeys as ‘pets’, in entertainment, in zoos, basically any animal use will inflame the sentiment of someone who possess the ideology that animals do not belong in captivity or farms.

What remains important and non-arbitrary is whether or not the animal is receiving the proper care standards, which Alley appears to meet while Bieber obviously does not.

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Comments 3 comments

barbaraburghart 3 years ago

No no no primates


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supertoastfairy 3 years ago

It sucks that the mistakes of the idiotic have to affect the responsible exotic pet owners.


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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I agree, very frustrating.

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