1 Introduction |
1. The private keeping
of non-human primates ("primates") is currently legal
in the UK and some estimates suggest that several thousand are
being kept in this way.
Examples of such primates are marmosets, tamarins and capuchins.
At the same time, consensus exists among veterinary associations,
animal welfare organisations and Government that it is not appropriate
to keep primates "as pets": defined as keeping these
animals alone, in domestic settings, primarily for the purpose
of companionship or personal interest. That is because primates
have particularly complex needs and an unusually high capacity
to suffer if their needs are not adequately addressed.
2. The pet industry has expressed similar views,
with the Pet Industry Federation setting out in written evidence
that it "is not in favour of these animals being kept alone
under normal circumstances and does not support the keeping of
primates in a home environment".
3. During the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill
through Parliament in 2006, a number of Members of both Houses
expressed concern about the welfare of significant numbers of
primates being kept as pets by those who lacked the ability to
care for them properly. Responding to these concerns, the Government
announced that "as a priority [it intended] to develop a
code for the keeping of primates. Its likely effect [would] be
to restrict their keeping to zoos, scientific institutions and
4. The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately
Kept Non-Human Primates (the Primate Code) came into operation
on 6 April 2010. The
impact assessment accompanying the Code states that it will be
reviewed five years after it enters into operation to assess how
effective it has been.
5. On 9 December 2013, we launched a short inquiry
to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the Primate Code
Review to help safeguard the welfare of privately kept primates.
Our inquiry examined the issues around the keeping of primates
as pets and whether a ban should be introduced. We sought written
evidence on the following topics:
- 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.
6. We received more than 40 written submissions from
a range of organisations and individuals. These included animal
welfare organisations, animal sanctuaries, the veterinary profession,
the pet industry, private keepers, independent experts and Government.
On 5 February 2014, we took oral evidence from three panels of
witnesses, including the Minister, Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Science.
We are grateful to all those who provided evidence to our inquiry.
1 We use the term "private keeping" in the
same way that it is used in the in the Primate Code. In other
words, to refer to primates kept in private ownership by individuals
or bodies corporate rather than by circuses, pet shops or establishments
licensed under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 or the Animals (Scientific
Procedures) Act 1986. Back
RSPCA [PAP 36], para 8; Wild Futures [PAP 10], para 6; Humane
Society International [PAP 29], para 10; Reptile and Exotic Pet
Trade Association [PAP 11], para 20. Back
Pet Industry Federation [PAP 40], p.1 Back
HC Deb, 19 January 2006, col 156. See also HL Deb, 24 May 2006,
col GC247 Back
Defra, Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates,
21 January 2010. Back
Defra, Impact Assessment of the Code of Practice on the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates,
14 August 2009, p.1 Back