22nd February 2023

On 16th February the British Veterinary Association published a release announcing that 8 in 10 UK vets “are concerned the needs of non-traditional pets such as reptiles, amphibians, birds or other “exotic” animals are not being met”. The statement details the high incidence rate of what they call Non-Traditional Companion Animals (NTCAs) being brought into veterinary surgeries where they are observed to be suffering the result of inadequate care. Most vets (82%) have cited “irresponsible animal ownership” as the main cause for the illnesses and injuries they are observing in NTCAs, and they have observed that “more than half (58%) of the NTCAs they see do not have their five animal welfare needs met and 26% [of vets] have seen a rise in the number brought in for treatment in the past year.”

Freedom for Animals has always stood in opposition to all animal captivity, including the trade in wild and exotic animals to be commodified as 'pets', where there is little to no assurance that their ‘owners’ are able to provide for their fundamental needs. The trade in exotic animals happens in specialist pet shops and fairs. ‘Specialist’, however, does not mean ‘skilled’, ‘knowledgeable’, or ‘compassionate’. It simply means that they are choosing to trade in animals that the mainstream pet trade largely avoids. These animals include reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals who need very specific conditions to remain healthy - conditions a domestic environment simply cannot meet.

If you take a walk down Stockport Road in Manchester, just opposite the O2 Apollo, you will see Manchester Pets and Aquatics. What you see in the window may stop you in your tracks: a pair of young female meerkats. Anyone could walk in off the street and buy them, and though the business may advise prospective buyers to research their care before buying the animals, there is no requirement for them to check the environment in which the animals will be housed before selling. And, unless the buyers have their own private Kalahari Desert at home, there is absolutely no way that they will be able to provide adequate care for meerkats. The trade in meerkats became more popular as a result of the ‘Compare the Meerkat’ advertisements that launched in 2009, but they are living, feeling animals with very specific needs. Meerkats need a vast area to roam with plenty of digging space, they need warmth, and they need a large colony with dozens of companions.

Two meerkats, in an area of just a few square feet, with a couple of heat lamps, is insufficient, cruel, and precisely the kind of situation that results in the high incidence of illness and injury to exotic animals that the BVA have reported.

The BVA now calls for “an end to the import of wild-caught reptiles and amphibians for non-conservation reasons”, something Freedom for Animals something Freedom for Animals welcomes as a strong step towards the abolition of removing animals from the wild. They have also called for more regulation of online sales and third-party advertising of NTCAs, pre-purchase tests to demonstrate a potential owner’s knowledge on the care needs of the animal they want to buy, and a number of other restrictions and barriers to the industry. We would argue that if a person intends to buy a wild or exotic animal as a pet then that demonstrates they are not qualified to care for them, as these animals cannot be adequately provided for within a home environment, and all breeding and import of NTCAs for the pet trade should also be ended absolutely. However, we welcome the BVA’s research and we hope that it discourages the purchase of exotic animals, and ultimately helps to bring an end to a cruel and outdated trade.

Did you Know?

Freedom for Animals campaigns for an end to the keeping of wild animals as pets. We work with other like-minded organisations to lobby national and local governments for an end to the breeding, keeping, sale or supply of wild animals in the pet trade, including captive-bred animals as they are still essentially wild animals. We also investigate illegal behaviour within the exotic pet trade and bring it to the attention of local authorities. We have recently been working with our friends at the Animal Protection Agency and World Animal Protection to investigate illegal sales of reptiles at reptile markets in the UK, and working with the Better Deal for Animals Coalition which includes over 60 animal protection organisations in the UK, to call on the government to support the Kept Animals Bill, which as well as banning the export of live ‘farmed’ animals, and ending cruel puppy farming, would also prohibit the keeping of primates (such as marmosets) as pets.

Become a Freedom Champion today and help us in our fight to end the abuse and exploitation of captive wild animals!