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MPs call for accurate estimates on how many primates are being kept as pets

MPs have ruled out an immediate ban on keeping primates as pets until the government has better figures on how many primates are kept as pets across the UK. 

MPs say they support the idea of a ban on keeping and trading primates as pets, but the government must come up with accurate estimates on numbers and species. The Commons environment, food and rural affairs (EFRA) committee said that while public opinion and welfare groups backed an outright ban, the "draconian" step should not be taken without compelling evidence in its favour.

Keeping primates as pets is currently legal in the UK. The big problem is that no-one is sure how many marmosets, tamarins, spider monkeys and others are in private hands. According to the evidence taken by the MPs, the numbers could range between 3,000 and 20,000.

To clarify the issue, the committee has recommended that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commission independent research on the number and type of primates being traded in the UK. They also want private owners to be given six months to register their animals before the count begins.

Many campaigners feel that the report doesn't go far enough and say the only answer is a complete ban on trade and private ownership. They are very doubtful that attempts to get people to register their primate will be successful.

Alan Knight, IAR Chief Executive, said: "“We would encourage a complete ban on the ownership and trade in primates. There is no way in the world to keep a primate as a pet without severely compromising its welfare. Apart from meeting its special dietary requirements, the physical and psychological needs of a primate can only be met in its natural environment in the wild where it has freedom to express natural primate behaviour. A domestic environment is always going to be incompatible with the complex needs of any primate.

“Primates do not make domestic pets. They belong in the wild. The sooner legislation is introduced to ban keeping them as pets in this country, the better.”

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