2 A ban on keeping pet primates |
7. In view of widespread consensus that it is not
appropriate to keep primates as pets, the question arises whether
the keeping and trading of pet primates should be banned. The
majority of our witnesses supported a ban.
Arguments in favour of a ban
8. Many organisations, including the RSPCA,
Wild Futures, Global
Federation of Animal Sanctuaries,
Captive Animals' Protection Society,
Primate Society of Great Britain
and Humane Society International
support a ban. They generally do so on the grounds of animal welfare,
but also on public health and safety and the need to protect vulnerable
or endangered species in the wild. Arguments typically made in
favour of a ban include the following:
· Keeping primates in a domestic environment
is incompatible with their complex social, behavioural, environmental
and dietary needs, as well as their need for specialist veterinary
· Most people lack the expert knowledge
required to care properly for primates, which is demonstrated
by evidence of solitary primates being kept in small cages, being
fed inappropriate diets, suffering physical and mental abnormalities
and needing to be rescued.
· Primates have a high capacity to suffer
if their needs are not adequately provided for, as they have complex
brain physiology and advanced cognitive abilities.
· Keeping primates as pets creates public
health risks, including the spread of zoonoses and the risk of
physical attack. This reflects the fact that primates cannot be
domesticated even if they are kept in a domestic environment and
bred in captivity.
· The keeping and trading of pet primates
can be detrimental to conservation efforts, encouraging the trapping
and transportation of wild animals from their native habitats.
· A ban on keeping primates as pets is important
for sending out a clear message that the activity is not appropriate
or acceptable. Conversely, as long as the trade and keeping of
primates as pets in the UK remains legal, it gains legitimacy
· A ban would be easier and cheaper to enforce
in the long run than regulation which permitted the trade and
keeping of primates as pets to continue. It would also assist
in the crackdown on fake or bogus advertisements for pet primates.
· A "grandfather clause"
could be used to avoid many of the negative consequences that
opponents of a ban highlight.
· A number of countries have already banned
the private keeping of non-human primates. Belgium, which prohibits
mammals from being kept as pets unless they are on a "positive
list" of species deemed suitable to be kept as pets, reported
a reduction in the number of illegal animals in sanctuaries following
the introduction of this measure. It also found that the public
played a useful role in monitoring and enforcing the ban.
· Public opinion and expert opinion both
favour a ban.
Arguments against a ban
9. Those who disagree with the imposition of a ban
on the keeping of primates as pets may still oppose the keeping
of primates in a "pet like manner". Where they differ
from supporters of a blanket ban is in their belief that it is
possible for private individuals with the necessary skills, experience
and resources to provide the care and conditions that address
primates' needs adequately.
10. Opponents of a ban also believe that current
or prospective regulation can ensure that animal welfare is protected
and that a ban would create unintended, undesirable consequences.
Some also believe that attempts to ban the keeping of primates
as pets represent an ideological attack on keepers and breeders
and represent the "thin end of a wedge" that will eventually
encompass a ban on keeping all exotic animals as pets.
Arguments typically made by those who oppose a ban are outlined
· Primates should not normally be kept "as
pets" but this does not rule out the possibility of private
keepers caring for these animals in a satisfactory manner.
· Keeping primates in a domestic setting
in isolation and on inappropriate diets is already against the
law, so there is little to gain from further legislation or a
ban. Animal welfare is more likely to be protected by effective
enforcement and application of existing legislation rather than
new legislation or a ban.
· A wider ban on the trade in primates or
on all private keeping of primates would mean that knowledgeable
people who keep primates in appropriate conditions would be unable
to continue to do so. This would penalise law-abiding, responsible
owners because of the actions of irresponsible owners;
· A ban would be disproportionate to the
scale of the problem and without any real foundation.
· A ban would be costly and difficult to
· A ban on the trade in primates as pets
could force websites overseas where they are out of reach from
UK authorities but could still advertise pet primates to prospective
buyers in the UK; the work of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group
(PAAG) is more likely
to prove an effective way of addressing the issue;
· A ban on the trade and keeping of primates
as pets would force these activities underground and, in doing
so, deny pet primates proper veterinary care because keepers could
not take the animals openly to a vet to be looked at.
· It is arrogant and illogical to suggest
that only a zoo or sanctuary can keep animals to a certain standard.
Zoos themselves evolved from private collections of wild animals
established by the wealthy.
11. While we support the potential adoption of a
ban in principle, this is a draconian step that must be based
on solid evidence. In the next chapter, we highlight the absence
of reliable data and make recommendations for addressing this
"evidence deficit". In subsequent chapters, we look
at ways of safeguarding the welfare of privately kept primates
by suggesting improvements to the existing regulatory framework
and the way in which it is implemented.
12. A ban remains a possible way of addressing
the welfare problems associated with primates being kept as pets.
However, this is not a solution that should be adopted in the
absence of reliable, compelling evidence or while there is still
potential for improving the operation of the existing regulatory
framework. Obtaining a more reliable evidence base must be the
first task for Government.
7 RSPCA [PAP 36], para 32 Back
Wild Futures [PAP 10], para 24 Back
Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries [PAP 19], p.1 Back
Captive Animals' Protection Society [PAP 13], p.1-2 Back
Primate Society of Great Britain [PAP 37], para 1.3 and 2.1, 3.7
and 4 Back
Humane Society International [PAP 23], para 7 and 25. Back
For example: William McGrew
[PAP 4], p.1; British Veterinary Association [PAP 33], para 4-7;
Neotropical Primate Conservation [PAP 22], p.1-2; Wild Futures
[PAP 10], para 2 and 4; Back
For example: Animal Welfare Party [PAP 3], p.2; Monkey World [PAP
31], para 6 and 16; ; Primate Society of Great Britain [PAP 37],
para 3.2; Kay Farmer [PAP 18], p.2; Back
For example: Lisa Riley [PAP 24] , p.2; Humane Society International
[PAP 29], para 17; RSPCA [PAP 36], para 24; OneKind [PAP 26],
para 9 Back
For example: Nedim Buyukmihci [PAP 5], para 5; Emergent Disease
Foundation [PAP 7], para 2.1-2.4 and 4.3; Douglas Richardson [PAP
42], para 2 Back
For example: Hannah Buchanan-Smith [PAP 16], p.1 and para 2.3.4;
Eurogroup for Animals [PAP 21], p.1; Care for the Wild International
[PAP 9], para 3b-d and 4a;. Back
For example: Wild Futures [PAP 10], para 21-24; Captive Animals'
Protection Society [PAP 13], para 4; Animal Protection Agency
[PAP 28], para 17 Back
For example: Rachel Hevesi (Wild Futures), Q.9; Eurogroup for
Animals [PAP 21], p.2; RSPCA [PAP 36], para 31. Back
A grandfather clause is one which exempts certain people or things
from the requirements of a piece of legislation. It typically
allows a pre-existing class of person to continue doing something
even though the law prohibits others from doing it. It is often
used as a transitional measure when a new regulatory regime is
being introduced. Back
For example: Kay Farmer
[PAP 18], p.2; Animal Protection Agency [PAP 28], para 19; Rachel
Hevesi (Wild Futures), Q.18; Wild Futures [PAP 10], para 21-24;RSPCA
[PAP 36], para 32 Back
For example: Rachel Hevesi (Wild Futures), Q.9; European Alliance
of Rescue Centres and Sanctuaries (EARS) [PAP 17], para 1.4; Eurogroup
for Animals [PAP 21], p.2; Back
For example: Born Free Foundation [PAP 15], p.3; RSPCA [PAP 36],
para 29-30; Humane Society International [PAP 29], para 21-22. Back
Private animal keeper and
breeder, name withheld [PAP 20], p.3 Back
For example: Pet Industry Federation [PAP 40], p.1; Wetheriggs
[PAP 2], p.1; Alison Cronin (Monkey World), Q.40 and 41; Name
Withheld [PAP 30], para 1 Back
For example: Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association [PAP 11],
para 11; Defra [PAP 27], para 7.2; Lord De Mauley, Q.79; Back
For example: Andrew Greenwood, Q.40; Mike Seton, Q.17; Alison
Cronin (Monkey World), Q.36; Defra [PAP 27], para 7.3; Wetheriggs
[PAP 2], p.1; Back
For example: Reptile and
Exotic Pet Trade Association [PAP 11], p.2; Lord De Mauley, Q.45;
Defra [PAP 27], para 7.3; Pet Industry Federation [PAP 40], p.2 Back
Andrew Greenwood, Q.40; Defra [PAP 27], para 7.2; Lord De Mauley,
Qq.45 and 75; Back
The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) is an advisory group
made up of animal welfare organisations, specialists, vets, and
Defra representatives working to promote responsible pet advertising. Back
Lord De Mauley, Q.52 Back
Christopher Moiser [PAP 6], para 7; Wetheriggs [PAP 2], p.2; Lord
De Mauley,Q.75; Mike Seton, Q.19; Name Withheld [PAP 20], p.2;
Alison Cronin (Monkey World), Q.41; Name Withheld [PAP 30], para