Animal advocates are calling on the government in the UK to help protect monkeys who are kept as pets by banning the trade in primates.
No one is entirely sure how many primates are kept as pets in the UK, or how many have been taken from the wild and imported, because official numbers aren’t kept by the government, but estimates range from 900 to 7,500, according to Animal Defenders International (ADI). As it stands, it’s perfectly legal to have a monkey as a pet, but those who are kept as pets are afforded little protection under the law.
Animal advocates who are fighting to end the primate pet trade argue that even with the best of intentions, we can’t properly meet the needs of these highly intelligent and socially complex animals who belong in the wild.
“Primates do not make suitable pets – they are wild animals with complex social needs and require highly specialised care. Primates can live for up to 45 years and members of the public are unaware of their needs and cannot provide the level of commitment that they require,” said Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI, in a statement.
Her sentiments have been echoed by other organizations, including Wild Futures and the British Veterinary Association. Recent reports about an obesity epidemic and subsequent health problems, including diabetes, among monkeys who are kept as pets highlights the fact that they’re not being properly cared for. According to Wild Futures, which runs a sanctuary, monkeys are also coming into rescues with a host of other physical and psychological disorders as a result of their past lives as pets.
Not only can individual monkeys suffer from the effects of inadequate care in captivity, but different species suffer as a whole from the impact that the pet trade has on both wild and captive-born primates. Many are bred in captivity to be exploited as pets, but many others are also being taken from the wild, which hurts conservation efforts that are dedicated to protecting primates and endangered species.
Even the government has admitted that primates don’t make good pets and has stated: “Primates should not be considered as pets in the accepted sense of the word: they are not species that can be treated as part of the family in the way that a cat or dog might be. They are wild undomesticated animals that cannot be house-trained or fully tamed.”
Unfortunately, the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates, which was put in place in 2010 to offer guidelines for owners, states that violating the guidelines for primate care is not an offense. Advocacy groups also believe there is a high level of non-compliance among owners that further complicates the issue.
In December, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched a committee to examine the various aspects of the primate pet trade and consider whether or not it should be legal to keep them as pets. Animal advocates are now urging the government to end the import and sale of primates and make keeping them as pets illegal as a matter of both animal welfare and public safety.
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