Shutterstock Bans “Unnatural” Pictures of Apes

By Kehl Bayern / January 14, 2018

We brought you news of how social media platform Instagram was bringing awareness to global animal abuse through a hashtag and search augmentation that alerts the searcher to the worldwide plague of illegal animal trafficking.

Now Shutterstock is joining the fray in the fight for the rights of animals. The media group, one of the world’s largest collections of photography and media on the Internet, announced a ban on all “unnatural” photos of apes and monkeys on its site.

Citing an appeal by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Shutterstock argued that the move came in part because stock photos involving apes and monkeys in “unnatural” poses and scenarios is often the byproduct of some form of animal abuse.

Further, the website says such exploitation hampers ape and monkey conservation efforts. The need to have monkeys on demand also contributes to international animal trafficking, many of whom are taken from their natural habitats to be sold in black markets, all without regard for the animal’s welfare or conservation status.

Image via Adriaan Greyling from

For its part, PETA added that the oft-misinterpreted chimpanzee “grin” is actually an expression of fear for the animal.

“Great apes used in these images are typically torn away from their mothers shortly after birth, causing lifelong psychological trauma to both mother and infant…When they reach adolescence, trainers often discard them in substandard facilities where they may be kept alone in small cages for decades.”

Shutterstock has announced the following scenarios as being “unnatural” according to PetaPixel, “wearing clothes or accessories, inside a human environment or studio (e.g. in a circus), exhibiting trained behavior (e.g. dancing), and engaging in unnatural interactions with humans (e.g. holding hands or being held).”

Photos that use digital modification to place apes and chimpanzees in the situation enumerated above are also banned from Shutterstock in both video and image format.

PetaPixel quotes PETA Primatologist Julia Gallucci says: “By banning unnatural images of exploited ape and monkey ‘actors,’ Shutterstock has made a huge difference for nonhuman primates, both those in the wild and those suffering in captivity…Ad agencies and film and television producers have already moved away from using these harmful images, and we hope other stock-photo providers follow Shutterstock’s lead.”


About the author

Kehl Bayern

Kehl Bayern is our staff news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing. In terms of photography, he is interested in architecture and modern design. Kehl Bayern is also the author of science fiction thriller Animus Proxy. He is based in Boston, Massachusetts and studied politics at the University of Virginia and, later, Harvard University for graduate school. He spends much of his time traveling up and down the east coast of the United States. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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