Primatologist says primates were in 'extreme distress' on set of the film

PETA is speaking out about alleged animal abuse on the set of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film.

After reports surfaced that a capuchin monkey had repeatedly projectile vomited on the Australian set of the fifth installment in Disney’s popular, $4 billion-grossing franchise, the animal rights group released an open letter to the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, urging him “to pledge not to use monkeys or other wild animals in future productions,” with an additional statement from PETA SVP Colleen O’Brien suggesting “computer-generated imagery” replace the act of “forcing sensitive wild animals to perform on camera.”

“This latest incident comes as no surprise, seeing as your production was also in the news after one of the monkeys bit a makeup artist on set — another telltale sign of a monkey in extreme distress,” the letter, signed by Primatologist Julia Gallucci, reads. “We’ve written to you multiple times regarding the issues inherent in using capuchin monkeys for the film. We’ve pointed out that monkeys are intelligent, curious, and highly social animals with complex physical and psychological needs that can’t be met on any film set or in training compounds. Most monkeys used for entertainment are sold as infants by animal breeders and dealers who remove the babies from their mothers prematurely — a practice that’s cruel to both the baby and the mother and denies the infants the maternal care and nurturing that they need for normal development. In order to suppress natural behavior and ensure total control over these animals — who are dangerous and unpredictable — trainers typically use abusive training techniques.”

On behalf of PETA, Gallucci previously wrote to Bruckheimer in 2015, recalling the alleged deaths of 100 animals on the set of the first Pirates film in 2003 as cause for concern in relation to Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ production, again urging the 10-time Emmy nominee to use CGI recreations of animals instead of live subjects. A representative for PETA provided EW with two previous letters to Bruckheimer (below), dated Feb. 25 and April 14, 2015, respectively.


The most recent message, dated June 2 of this year, also cites Joe Suffredini of Avian Entertainment, who reportedly provided the primate actors for the film, as having an “egregious track record when it comes to animal welfare,” including “housing capuchins in inadequate enclosures that didn’t meet the minimum size requirement for the animals” and “not having an adequate veterinary-care program.”

Representatives for Disney, Bruckheimer, and directing duo Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.

This isn’t the first time PETA has advocated for animal rights on the set of a major 2017 production. In January, the organization called for a boycott of Universal’s family picture A Dog’s Purpose after an on-set video of a German Shepherd seemingly being forced against its will to film a scene in a tank of rushing water made the rounds online. The film went on to make $193 million at the worldwide box office on a $22 million budget.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Movie
  • 129 minutes