Primates: Pets

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Treasury)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of further restricting the keeping of primates as pets beyond that set out in section 4 and section 9 the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (jointly with the Department for International Development)

There is no doubt that primates are complex creatures requiring specialist care. I recently met with the owner of a leading specialist primate rescue centre who informed me about the rising numbers they are having to take from private care. Given these issues I am looking at the options for banning the trade altogether.

In the meantime, we have strict laws in place restricting the keeping of primates and action can be taken if a primate is being kept in poor welfare conditions. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or to fail to provide for its welfare.

The 2006 Act is backed up by the statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-human Primates that provides essential information for any primate keeper on how to meet the welfare needs of the primates in their care. The Code is made under the 2006 Act and can be used as evidence in court in support of a prosecution made under the 2006 Act.

If anyone has any concerns about the way a primate is being kept they should report to the relevant local authority, who have powers to investigate such issues, or to the RSPCA who can also investigate and take action.

In addition to the animal welfare controls, the keeping of most primates requires a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (DWAA), which is issued by a local authority. The DWAA licence is primarily to ensure public safety is protected.

The trade of primates is regulated through a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) licensing system. Under this system, the international, commercial trade of the most endangered primates is prohibited, except under exceptional circumstances. Whilst it is not in itself a welfare measure, CITES does contain welfare provisions for the transport, keeping and moving of animals, including primates.

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