WAN Talks With Nina Jackel About Lady Freethinker’s Latest Undercover Investigation To Help Save Exploited “Pet” Monkeys In Cambodia

Undercover investigations exposing the dark side of social media where innocent animals are often exploited and abused for human greed, selfishness, and profit are becoming more common.

WAN had the opportunity to talk with Nina Jackel, Founder and President of Lady Freethinker, an animal protection nonprofit which is now behind many such shocking investigations. While Lady Freethinker is perhaps most recognized for its tireless work investigating and campaigning against the horrific dog meat trade in Asia, Jackel has adopted the philosophy that by raising awareness of one species of animal, you raise awareness for all animals.

If people are shocked that innocent dogs are subjected to this kind of senseless abuse, violence, and death, they should begin to connect the dots that other animals, such as pigs and cows, are also abused and selfishly slaughtered for human consumption.

“My favorite thing to hear is that someone stopped eating meat from watching our undercover investigations,” noted Jackel, who further explained that while she first created Lady Freethinker to focus on the evolution of society to recognize how humans treat and mistreat animals, it quickly became more about changing perceptions with an ideological approach.

From dogs, pigs, and cows, to monkeys, and more, Lady Freethinker is tackling animal welfare issues one by one. The organization’s campaigns, petitions, and undercover investigations raise awareness and educate people while encouraging them to become involved in creating necessary change.

Most recently, Lady Freethinker teamed with their partner Action for Primates on an investigation that uncovered the cruel reality behind Cambodia-based “pet” baby monkey videos that have become popular across social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook. The organizations are now calling on the Cambodian government to take action to put an end to this travesty.

Thousands of videos, amassing hundreds of millions of views, deceptively show the monkeys as “loved” pets, clothed in colorful outfits while “dancing,” spinning in circles, and playing with toys; all unnatural stunts that they have been forced to execute by their amused owners. When not “performing” for online exposure, the poor little monkeys are often inhumanly kept in cramped and barren wire cages.

“What happens behind the scenes of these seemingly ‘cute’ infant monkey videos is much darker than viewers realize,” shared Jackel, further explaining that these babies are ripped from their mothers and suffer cruel and illegal captivity. “We urge the public not to watch or share this content.”

Investigators met with several content creators in Cambodia. There, they witnessed first-hand the inhumane living conditions forced upon the monkeys, including five young monkeys kept in a wire cage with wire flooring without any enrichment activities or platforms, leaving the monkeys with no opportunities to participate in natural behaviors. At one location, three macaques were kept in a barren wire cage in a filthy area of their owner’s residence. The owner claimed that the animals were fed milk, fruit, jelly, and candy.

“Forcibly removing and depriving infant monkeys of their mothers and raising them in captivity in unnatural conditions is extremely cruel and will result in abnormal behavior and development leading to severe psychological and physical problems. We urge the authorities to rescue these abused captive monkeys, and ensure they are sent to a reputable sanctuary,” stated AFP Co-founder Sarah Kite.

Not all videos posted by these channels hide behind the façade of cute animals and happy owners. Some show shocking behavior used to “discipline” monkeys, like holding a macaque over a balcony and biting, hitting, and knocking the monkeys over. One channel’s disturbing videos include a highly distressed infant macaque cruelly dumped onto a chair and filmed crying for the camera, as well as a macaque whose arms were deliberately confined in tight clothing so that the monkey was forced to walk upright. How are posts of these young animals in pain and distress “entertainment?”

A report published by the Asia for Animals Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) in 2021 illustrates the widespread and escalating issue of animal cruelty content on social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. The report included 5,480 videos with 5,347,809,262 views. When it was possible to identify where the videos originated from, Cambodia was listed sixth out of 33 countries for content sources by volume.

It is illegal to own macaques and most other wild animals as pets in Cambodia. This practice continues, however, due to a lack of law enforcement and the availability of wild monkeys throughout the country. They are stolen from their mothers in the forests of Cambodia by wildlife traffickers and sold to people who have little or no knowledge of animal welfare. Investigators found that these monkeys exhibited coping mechanisms associated with stress, separation, and loss. Keeping wild animals as “pets” is not just a danger to the animals themselves, but to humans as well.

Lady Freethinker and Action for Primates have launched a petition calling on Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) Prime Minister Hun Sen; Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) Minister Veng Sakhon; and Minister of Environment H.E. Say Samal to relocate captive monkeys to a reputable sanctuary and take action against those who are subjecting monkeys to abuse and cruelty. Please sign their petition HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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