Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DARWIN, THE IKEA MONKEY: best cash-grab of the season!

Maybe it's because it's Christmas, with all the feverish fund-raising that goes on. I don't know. But I am plenty pissed by the following story.

A lot of you already know about Darwin, the cute little baby rhesus monkey (or whatever kind he is: it's a little unclear now) found leaping around an Ikea store in Toronto, wearing a baby-sized shearling winter coat.

It was the kind of story that makese a great kicker on the news: "And, finally. . . ", with chuckling anchors making droll little monkey jokes with absolutely no awareness or concern for what is really going on. It's YouTube, folks, so it can't be real and no one can be hurt by it. Harmless entertainment.

That is, until the public was made joltingly aware of the fact that there were more "issues" involved here than a displaced monkey in an adorable coat.

We saw video clips of Yasmin Nakhuda, the kind of person who anthrop - anthropo - oh well, screw it, treats pet monkeys like people, with a human need for close nurture. One of those eccentric people who dress their pets in all the latest styles, haul them around with them, brush their teeth with them, and shit like that.

While Nakhuda was off shopping, presumably in Ikea, the cleverly-named Darwin escaped from her car and - weird or what? - bolted into the store, where it ran around frantically "trying to find the cafeteria" (chortled all the news people) "because it wanted a cheap hot dog or some meat balls." More likely, it wanted to get out of a typical frigid Toronto winter before it froze to death.

One would have thought that would have been the end of the story. The eccentric lady takes her exotic pet home with her to celebrate Christmas. But wait, all of a sudden, unlike in the US where you can own a Bengal tiger or a deadly cobra or whatever-you-fancy and keep it in the back yard while your toddlers roam around and throw stones at it, this monkey has been confiscated. It's been snatched away by a strange-looking "sanctuary" called Story Book Farm.

Just the name is weird. It just doesn't suit a primate sanctuary. There used to be a Story Book Gardens in London, Ontario, a must-see for kids everywhere (and I was dragged there at least 14 times). Did it have animals in it? I think so, in those wretched, suffocating barred cages that reeked of ammonia and dung. As a child, I thought it was natural for animals to pace back and forth all day.

So now little Darwin, obviously capable of making decisions for himself and his own well-being, has finally seen the light.

Though his former owner has been lambasted for the horrible sin of treating him like a human being, suddenly Darwin (renamed like a religious convert, a kid adopted from the Ukraine or someone in the witness protection program) is talking, just like a human!

Yes, talking! And you wouldn't believe the things he is saying. This is a direct quote from the Story Book Farm fundraising web site:

I was found wandering the parking lot scared and confused on Sunday Dec 9th.
I am only a baby and had no idea where I was.
The kind people at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary took me in and are providing me with a permanent, loving home where I can learn from other monkey's and I am told may have a surrogate mother!!!
I am so happy to finally be able to live and act like a real monkey!
Story Book farm did not expect to get me for Christmas and we could desperately use funds to help pay for my care as well as the other amazing monkey friends I have made.
I will eat A LOT of food. I would also love to be able to play with toys and other enrichment items and all of this costs money.
Please consider makng a donation towards my care, this is my Christmas wish.
No donation amount is too small, every little bit helps! :)

Other Ways You Can Help

Even if you can't contribute, you can help me and my other new monkey friends by sharing this campaign with everyone you know.
Thank you for your support, and for helping me have a very well deserved Happy Holiday.
Plese feel free to visit our website to learn more about us:

Does this somehow speak to you of "cash grab"? It makes me plenty uneasy, along with the pictures and videos of monkeys in Story Book Farm bouncing off the walls of wire mesh cages. This is not my idea of a sanctuary, where animals can roam free in some semblance of the wild. And maybe even interact with each other in some way that's more natural than sticking their fingers through the mesh.

Even the "parking lot" reference is bent to make it all seem more cruel. He was found in the store, not outside. And notice how they've suddenly, magically changed his name back to Darwin for the sake of public recognition (though only for the purposes of the campaign).

Wouldn't Darwin be better off in Yasmin Nakhuda's bathroom brushing his little simian teeth? Maybe not. Lots of people treat their dogs like babies, but that's apparently beside the point. This Storybook shit is deeply suspicious to me. It seems to me it's just another form of abuse, and certainly exploitation.

Do they really think they're going to squeeze money out of people by yanking Darwin's string and making him "talk" so people will feel guilty if they DON'T donate?

I got one of these things in the mail the other day. Don't even remember which charity, but it said something like, "We were about to present our usual gut-wrenching, guilt-inducing end-of-the-year pitch to to help suffering children, but suddenly had to put it all aside when an urgent crisis arose which will result in a horrible, agonizing death if you personally don't do something about it!! Little Hildegard is a sweet innocent toddler who is now suffering from Stage 4 cancer and will surely die in horrible agony if you don't pony up and empty out your wallets NOW. Don't you want to save her? What in hell's name is the matter with you?" (And so on, blah, blah, blah.)

I know charities are suffering. But I also know that you have to pick and choose, you can't give to all of them, and such extreme guilt tactics are inexcusable. It all reeks of manipulation and laying a staggering load of guilt on the public. I can just see their PR people saying, "Well, you know, we could always keep this story until Christmas, that is, if the little girl is still alive. You know how people are at Christmas. They always give more." I happen to know that these people have been hired to do this, to "spin" their issues for maximum manipulative effect, justified by the fact that charities must now be run like businesses, no matter how crooked and mercenary their tactics.

This time it's about a displaced monkey - not just any monkey, but the IKEA MONKEY, now just as famous as Justin Bieber for his cute little YouTube antics. Even better: there's now an "Ikea Monkey Controversy" that will spawn still more news items to tack on to the end of the TV news broadcast, inspiring still more chuckling, bantering and not-very-clever "monkey custody jokes". Or else sober-faced, cheek-biting items while the anchors try to pretend this story means shit.

Meantime, the most important issue has been totally buried in hype. This isn't a "thing", but an alive, sensate being that is more intelligent than your beloved Rover or Hissy the Cat. It's being thrown back and forth like a football in the name of "animal rights", and it is totally disgusting to watch.

Not just thrown back and forth, but shoved into the public's face in a breathtaking campaign known (literally) as Dollars for Darwin (even though his name isn't even Darwin any more! This is nothing but brand recognition served up with a side order of cute alliteration.)

Why do I feel as if my wallet is being forcefully squeezed? Why do I feel that no matter how much I donate to every cause, worthy or not, I will still feel like a guilty wretch for not giving even more? Why do I feel a sort of nausea about this whole story, knowing it can't possibly have a good ending for anyone? For the only thing more heartlessly mercenary than squeezing out donations for the plight of a sick human being is exploiting the innocence of a vulnerable, helpless baby animal.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look


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