Whether it is my animal zodiac sign of Tiger that is believed to be highly incompatible with anyone with that of monkey, let me just clarify that monkeys are my least favorite animals. However, that doesn’t mean that I should not feel strongly about the article from a recent issue of BBC Wildlife about the U.K.’s primate trade accompanied by the title photo of the baby marmoset named TikTok. Call it milk of human kindness. I cannot just leave the pages closed and forget about it as a piece of memory. The images and words still haunt me, which prompts an enduring reckoning, resulting in writing this essay.
The primate trade in the U.K. and here in the States evokes the human history of slavery. Under slavery, human lives were counted as chattel, and the families were continuously disintegrated because of volatile trade-offs. On the same token, keeping primates as pets seems no less different from colonialists or slave owners whose eyes were set upon the exotic physical attributes of the people they subordinated.
The article has also taken me to my brief research into the U.S. primate trade with the following facts: in 2012, 19 states, including California, where I live, had outright bans on private monkey ownership. The primates are considered a threat to wildlife and public safety and health because their habitats and nature are not agreeable to our environment despite our conventional knowledge of primates as the closest to our species lost in the evolution tree. Come to think of it, the idea of “Planet of Apes” has a point in reversing the directions of gaze from humans to apes, and vice versa, showing us why the two species could not cohabitate by confining them in the opposite environments.
We should not think of animals as live toys or ornaments that will satisfy our whimsical, capricious tastes. From pets to wildlife, animals are not our property but companions. I know it for sure when I feel a little heart of my cat Toro sleeping at my feet.