From the infamous cat videos that brought Youtube into mainstream consciousness, to the images of monkeys smiling gleefully at the camera, the web has always been a delightful source for photos and videos of animals. These images have made us laugh and helped us to procrastinate throughout the day.
But, with recent developments, it looks like the era of monkeys taking selfies could be coming to an end. After meeting with Peta, Shutterstock has agreed to discontinue all photos of primates or apes in which the animals are displayed in an ‘unnatural setting’.
“Images of these animals in unnatural settings can harm conservation efforts and may increase the demand for these wild animals as ‘pets.'”
“Unnatural” settings include any photos in which primates are depicted dancing or performing, wearing people’s clothes, or even holding hands with a human. In addition, Shutterstock will not be publishing images in which primates are digitally altered to appear as if they are outside of their natural setting.
According to Peta, this is a progressive change: “Images of these animals in unnatural settings can harm conservation efforts and may increase the demand for these wild animals as ‘pets.'” With their removal, Peta hopes that people will one day move away from degrading animals by portraying them as “human-like”.
Of course, no one wants to harm conservation efforts or allow for these primates to be taken advantage of. Dressing apes up and teaching them to dance does seem dated and honestly quite juvenile. But Shutterstock’s ban on all images of primates interacting with humans seems harsh. It’s images like the one of Koko the gorilla using sign language to communicate that remind people how close primates are to humans. If a photographer can capture an image in which a primate is interacting with a human, then it would seem more beneficial for Shutterstock to share it. In this case, it wouldn’t be degrading, it would be inspiring.
Shutterstock’s decision was a conscious one, made in an effort to help animal conservation. But we have to ask ourselves if limiting photography is the right way to do it. If used in the right way, images of primates could help raise awareness for their safety, rather than harm them.