Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Support a ban on primate pets in England!

Posted: 7 January 2020. Updated: 7 January 2020


The UK Government is currently seeking your views on the welfare of primates who are kept as pets in England. This includes whether there should be restrictions on keeping primate species whose welfare is known to be compromised in captivity.

There are an estimated 4,000-5,000 primates currently kept as pets in the UK, although this figure could be as high as 7,500, an accurate figure difficult to confirm due to lack of legislation/regulation.

Due to their intelligence and innately social and complex behaviours, the needs of primates can never be met in a domestic environment. Owners lack expert knowledge of these wild animals’ specialised diets and needs and confinement and boredom can lead to stereotypic behaviours. Primates may also undergo procedures to adapt their behaviour, such as neutering, early weaning and tooth extraction.


With little known about how many and what primates are kept as pets, and how they live, evidence is also being sought on the scale of the issue and how animals are acquired, as well as what effect any introduced restrictions would have on primate welfare and how these might be enforced.

Animal Defenders International and many other animal protection groups and sanctuaries believe that the keeping of primates – apes, monkeys and lemurs – as pets is detrimental to their welfare and have long called for a ban.

In its December 2019 election manifesto the Conservative Party pledged that “We will ban keeping primates as pets.” and we call on them, while in government, to stand true to their word.

Please join us and help save primates from the pet trade and a lifetime of suffering.


  • Send the template letter below to the Animal Welfare Team at Defra on or before 5pm on Friday 17 January 2020. You can send by email to or mail to the Animal Welfare Team at Area 2D Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.
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Welfare of primates as pets in England: call for evidence

Dear Animal Welfare Team

Wild, intelligent, and innately social and complex animals, primates are not suitable for keeping as pets, as their needs cannot be met in a domestic environment.

As pledged by the Conservative government in its election manifesto, a ban on the keeping of primates as pets is the only way to ensure a positive impact on their welfare and prevent their wellbeing being compromised.

Evolved to live in an extensive, diverse and stimulating environment, in captivity primates suffer both mentally and physically. Confined, bored and frustrated, primates kept as pets, and former pets, are frequently observed displaying stereotypic behaviours. An indication that the animals are not coping with their environment, such behaviours can include neck-twisting, pacing, teeth-grinding and self-mutilation.

Few owners have the expertise or commitment to provide for their primates’ specialist and long-term needs. Each species for example has their own specific dietary requirements; owners however will often provide their animals with high sugar, high carbohydrate, low fibre foods that can lead to health problems such as tooth decay, diabetes and heart disease. Such poor diets, and early weaning, can also lead to bone development problems in primate pets.

Attempts to manipulate primate behaviour can include neutering and teeth extraction, the latter if crudely performed leading to abscesses, infections and years of pain. Natural primate behaviours such as scent marking with urine to mark their territory is not welcome and can result in animals being removed from a family home and confined to a cage or shed.

Should the high number of primate pets (an estimated 4,000-5,000) present issues with re-homing following a ban, I would support a phased approach whereby there is an immediate ban on the acquisition and breeding of primates for the pet trade, with interim standards for current owners to abide by, and a network of re-homing centres established across the country to help primates in need.

Yours faithfully

© Animal Defenders International 2020