30th August 2019

The banning of monkeys and other primates as pets has caught the attention of two major political parties. 

In Labour’s latest Animal Welfare Manifesto published this month, the party has pledged to ban the keeping of capuchins, marmosets, lemurs and other primates as pets, usually kept in people’s homes.

Luke Pollard, the Shadow Environment Minister, said:

“It is astonishing that it is still entirely legal to keep primates as pets, regardless of how endangered or dangerous the animal is. Anyone can browse the internet and buy a primate with little or no checks and inspections. We know that primates are very intelligent, social animals with complex needs that simply cannot be met in a home environment.”

In response, Conservative MP and Animal Welfare Minister, Zac Goldsmith, stated

Monkeys and other primates are wild animals with highly complex needs. Through the extraordinary work of Monkey World’s Dr Alison Cronin, I have seen first-hand how keeping them as pets causes immense suffering… so I have asked the department to look at the options for banning the trade altogether.” 

Freedom for Animals welcomes these positive statements, after many years of campaigning against the primate pet trade alongside campaign partners Born Free, British Veterinary Association, Four Paws, One Kind, RSPCA and Wild Futures. 

Primates suffer immensely when denied the opportunity to live in their natural homes, with their families and they thrive without human intervention. Damage caused to primates kept as pets is not just physical, but emotional and psychological. Sometimes that damage cannot be undone, even after years of rehabilitation.

Primates like Josh the capuchin, who was rehomed four times as a pet, unwanted by each of his owners. He eventually attacked his final owners and ended up in at Tweddle Farm, a zoo that was shut down after Freedom for Animals found it operating without a zoo licence and keeping animals in appalling conditions.

The trade and keeping of primates as pets in the UK lacks scrutiny and so the full extent of the trade is unknown. Estimates suggest that there may be around 9,000 non-human primates kept privately in the UK.

Nicola O'Brien, Campaigns Director for Freedom for Animals, says:

“We welcome these public statements from two major political parties, against the cruel primate pet trade. This trade causes unimaginable suffering to thousands of primates across the UK, many of them being kept without any form of licence. This is why we urge the Animal Welfare Minister to make sure this review leads to positive change; if he and his party are truly committed to protecting these complex, intelligent animals, only a ban will do.” 

15 European countries have already introduced bans on keeping primates as pets, for either all or some species. Freedom for Animals and our coalition partners will continue to campaign on this issue and push for a ban.