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WATCH: Urgent Action Required to Establish Number of Pet Primates

12 June 2014

ANALYSIS - Urgent action is required to establish the numbers of primates kept in captivity by private individuals across the UK and to improve their welfare, warn MPs in their latest report.

Launching its report, Primates as Pets, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Miss Anne McIntosh said: "We take the welfare of primates in captivity very seriously, so we were surprised to find that so little is known about the types and numbers of primates being kept or traded by private individuals in the UK and about the manner in which they are being kept.

"It is paramount the Government acts promptly to address this ‘evidence deficit’.

"We do not rule out a ban, but conclude that such a step must be based on solid evidence and cannot be imposed before every opportunity to improve the operation of our existing framework has been exhausted.

"We call on Defra to commission independent research to establish the extent of the problems in this area and to report back to us with a plan of action within six months of receiving the research results.

"In the meantime, we recommend a number of changes to the current regulatory framework governing primates kept by private individuals to help protect their welfare over the short to medium term."

MPs also call for the Government to:

  • Ensure that legislation governing pet sales is fit for the internet age
  • Boost public awareness of existing regulatory controls and guidance
  • Increase the utility and efficacy of the Primate Code
  • Expedite the publication of guidance to local authorities on the Dangerous Wild Animals Act

RSPCA pledges to continue fight for ban

Responding to the governments announcement, the RSPCA has vowed to carry on pushing for a ban on keeping primates as pets.

Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: “It is encouraging to see that the Committee recognise urgent action is needed to protect primates kept as pets and support the principle of a ban. The number of primates being kept as pets is a worryingly growing trend which is easily fuelled by the use of Internet sales.

“There is an alarming lack of regulation around the sale of primates and this makes it incredibly difficult to monitor. We estimate that there are between 3,000 and 9,000 primates being kept as pets in the UK.

“We don’t believe that the further research recommended by the Committee is needed, nor will it yield the level of accuracy on numbers the Committee would like. We also fear that this will be a costly exercise, similar to some of the other Committee’s recommendations.

“In the absence of a ban, we welcome the Committee’s recommendations to review and improve Defra’s Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately-Kept Primates in England.

“Primates have very complex needs and the level of suffering is high if these requirements are not met. In short primates are wild animals that cannot have their needs met in a household environment. They are not pets.

“Specialist expert knowledge and facilities are required to look after primates properly, which the vast majority of people lack. This is illustrated by the increase in the number of convictions for cruelty to primates we have recorded.”

A full ban on keeping primates as pets

Head of public affairs David Bowles said: “We welcome the recommendations that updates are made to the Pet Animals Act 1951. The law is 63 years old and out of date with the modern age and this is reflected in the use of the internet to sell most pets – particularly primates.

“We, alongside organisations, will be pushing for a full ban on keeping primates as pets and are pleased the Committee is keeping the option of a ban open.”

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Top image via Shutterstock

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