Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI urges UK government to call time on primate pet trade

Posted: 13 January 2014

Animal protection group Animal Defenders International (ADI) is today urging the government to end the suffering of monkeys and lesser apes kept as pets by stopping the trade in these intelligent, wild animals who Defra itself admits “should not be considered as pets” and cannot be “fully tamed”.

The call comes as the deadline approaches for comments to an inquiry into the keeping of primates as pets – launched by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and for which ADI has provided written evidence.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International (ADI): “Primates do not make suitable pets – they are wild animals with complex social needs and require highly specialised care. Primates can live for up to 45 years and members of the public are unaware of their needs and cannot provide the level of commitment that they require.”

“The welfare of primate pets is severely compromised and poorly protected by legislation. ADI believes that a ban on the keeping of monkeys and apes is the only way to ensure these emotional, intelligent animals do not suffer through ignorance and poor environments.”

No official numbers are kept on primate pets in the UK, but estimates range widely, from 900 to 7,500 individuals, although experts consider that the actual number could far exceed 7,500. Of these, it is not known how many animals have been imported into the UK – some of whom will have been taken from the wild – as pet trade numbers are not recorded by the government.

Primates are intelligent, social animals who have evolved to live in an extensive, rich environment in the wild, nurtured by the company of their own species and stimulated by a challenging habitat. A life of captivity – and, for many, confinement and isolation – leads to frustration and psychological problems, resulting in stereotypic, repetitive behaviours which can include self-mutilation, pacing and teeth-grinding. Such behaviours are frequently observed in pet primates.

It is not possible for even the most well meaning owner to provide for the wide spectrum of needs essential to a healthy primate and primates will inevitably suffer from the restrictions of life as a pet, denied the opportunity to live in a normal family group and display their normal social, physiological and psychological behaviours.

Legislation provides little protection for primate pets. It is not an offence for owners to be in breach of the ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates’ and although a licensing system exists under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, this does not apply to all primate species, for example squirrel monkeys and tamarins, which account for approx one-third of primate pets in the UK. As a result, non-compliance is considered to be high.

Ahead of a total ban on the keeping of primates as pets, ADI recommends that the UK government takes immediate action to end the import and sale of primates for the pet trade, in light of the inevitable suffering involved in the capture, transport and social isolation of these animals, the damage caused to wild populations by the trade and the risk to human health from unknown monkey viruses.

ADI also recommends the national licensing of all species of privately-owned primates which would set standards of welfare and environmental enrichment and make provision for the removal of animals kept in unsuitable conditions.

In addition, ADI would like to see a working group established with involvement from government, primate sanctuaries and other groups, to set up an equitable and workable system for dealing with the offspring of privately-owned primates.

Members of the public can support calls to ban the keeping of primates as pets by signing the petition at


Fleur Dawes, Animal Defenders International
Tel: 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

Notes to Editors:

Inquiry into the keeping primates as pets
The inquiry into the keeping of primates as pets was launched by Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on 9 December 2013 and sought written evidence on:

  • The extent of the trade and keeping of primates as pets within the UK;
  • Whether the existing regulatory framework and Code of Practice offer adequate protection for the welfare of primates kept as pets and are being applied effectively; and
  • Whether people should be allowed to keep primates as pets and, if not, how a ban might be implemented.

The deadline for comments is January 14, 2014.

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates
The Code of Practice concerning the keeping of primates as pets concludes, p.2, that “Primates should not be considered as pets in the accepted sense of the word... They are wild undomesticated animals that cannot be house-trained or fully tamed.”

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 – a failed promise
During the passage of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, animal protection organisations, Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords raised serious concerns about the problems of keeping primates kept as pets. Nevertheless, Parliament refused to ban the trade and it was left for the government to deal with through regulation. In 2010 Defra published a code of practice on privately kept non-human primates, including standards of husbandry and care of captive primates under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However a breach of the code is not an offence.

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act licensing system does not apply to all primates
In May 2007 the Government de-listed several species of monkey from the DWAA, making it easier for individuals to acquire these animals. Defra asserted that these animals were not dangerous enough to be included. The effect was a reduction in protection for the animals.

Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

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