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Monkey World News

MPs demand accurate data on primate pet numbers

10 June 2014

MPs are calling for urgent government action to determine how many primates are being kept as pets across the UK.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee says they are worried about the welfare of animals being kept privately.

In their report, the MPs say they support the idea of a ban on keeping and trading primates as pets. Before that happens, they argue, the government must come up with accurate estimates on numbers and species.

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. These figures were said to be at best, informed guesses.

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. "What we did hear was that no one really knows what the scale of the problem is," said Anne McIntosh MP, the chair of the Efra committee.

"I really just think you need to know, on the basis of sound evidence, what the scale of the problem is, or if it is, I hesitate to say, alarmist."

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.

Arguments in favour

  • Keeping primates in homes is incompatible with their needs
  • Most people don't have the knowledge to care for them properly
  • Primates have a high capacity to suffer
  • Keeping primates creates public health risks
  • Has a negative impact on conservation efforts

Arguments against

  • Current legislation is adequate to ensure animal welfare
  • Banning primates might lead to restrictions on owning other exotic species
  • Ban would be expensive and impossible to enforce
  • A ban would force pet primate websites overseas, out of reach of UK authorities
  • Ownership would be driven underground and would be even more detrimental to animal welfare

"The evidence to date suggests that these type of registration programmes are cumbersome, often widely ignored or flouted," said Mark Jones from Humane Society International.

"That was the evidence of dog registration which was eventually abandoned - and there is plenty of evidence among those species that require registration under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, that the requirement is often ignored."


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