No More Monkey Business? Should Pet Monkeys Be Banned?

Which of these exotic animals are you legally allowed to own as a pet in the UK?

  1. Capybaras

  2. Bengal cats

  3. Kinkajous (might need to Google that one)

  4. Primates including squirrel monkeys, lemurs, marmosets, tamarins and capuchins.

If you said, ‘trick question, you can keep all of them’, then you get a gold star. It is indeed legal to keep any of these animals as pets. But should it be? Today, we’re going to look specifically at the last one – monkeys. Should it be legal to keep them as pets?

The Problem with Monkeys

The Born Free foundation estimates about 5,000 primates are being kept as pets, and the RSPCA receives on average one call a week about captive monkeys. Last year 2,213 primates were imported into the UK to be kept as pets. How many more were bred domestically is unknown. It is legal to sell small monkeys in pet shops, and there is no data on how many do so across the country. The basic fact, though, is that the number of pet monkeys is a lot higher than many people think. Many of these monkeys are sold at very young ages, kept in unsuitable conditions, and owners are often uninformed about their welfare needs, which causes unnecessary suffering. It is common for pet monkeys to suffer from metabolic bone disease due to malnutrition.

A Solution?

If you’re asking yourself, why don’t we just ban keeping monkeys altogether, you’re not the only one. DEFRA is proposing that it be made illegal to keep primates as pets entirely. Zac Goldsmith, the current DEFRA minister, said:

“Primates are very intelligent and curious wild animals with highly complex welfare and social needs which must be respected. That is why the Government is launching this crucial call for evidence to help understand how we can better protect these wild animals. If the evidence supports it, I will ask the department to draw up a consultation on banning the practice.”

As is protocol, the Government will consider the informed opinions of experts before making their decision. There are a lot of reasons to ban pet monkeys, as outlined above. But there are always the unintended consequences of blanket bans. Making things illegal often doesn’t stop them, and only drives it underground, where there is no regulation at all. If existing owners have to give up their pets, somewhere has to be found for them to go. These are the issues that must be debated.

If you have any information to contribute to the discussion, you can do so by emailing [email protected]. If you would like to read the full government report, you can click here.

No More Monkey Business? Should Pet Monkeys Be Banned?

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