We have vowed to carry on pushing for a ban on keeping primates as pets after a UK government Select Committee ruled legislation could be considered in the future.  

Male Common Marmoset © RSPCAA report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has recommended that the UK government must establish how many primates, and of what type, are kept and traded as pets in England and take a number of steps to improve their welfare in the meantime.

Dr Ros Clubb, our senior scientific officer, said:

“It is encouraging to see that the Committee recognise urgent action is needed to protect primates kept as pets and support the principle of a ban. The number of primates being kept as pets is a worryingly growing trend which is easily fuelled by the use of Internet sales.


“There is an alarming lack of regulation around the sale of primates and this makes it incredibly difficult to monitor. We estimate that there are between 3,000 and 9,000 primates being kept as pets in the UK.


“We don’t believe that the further research recommended by the Committee is needed, nor will it yield the level of accuracy on numbers the Committee would like. We also fear that this will be a costly exercise, similar to some of the other Committee’s recommendations.


“In the absence of a ban, we welcome the Committee’s recommendations to review and improve Defra’s Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately-Kept Primates in England.


Primates have very complex needs and the level of suffering is high if these requirements are not met. In short primates are wild animals that cannot have their needs met in a household environment. They are not pets.


“Specialist expert knowledge and facilities are required to look after primates properly, which the vast majority of people lack. This is illustrated by the increase in the number of convictions for cruelty to primates we have recorded.”

A full ban on keeping primates as pets

Head of public affairs David Bowles said:

“We welcome the recommendations that updates are made to the Pet Animals Act 1951. The law is 63 years old and out of date with the modern age and this is reflected in the use of the internet to sell most pets – particularly primates.


“We, alongside organisations, will be pushing for a full ban on keeping primates as pets and are pleased the Committee is keeping the option of a ban open.”

Find out more about our concerns with primates as pets.

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