Petition to protect primates handed-in at Westminster


The 55,000 strong #ProtectPrimates petition has been handed in to Defra to highlight the misery suffered by pet marmosets, capuchins, squirrel monkeys and other primates.

Some of the Protect Primate campaigners outside DEFRA

The petition hand-in coincides with Defra's ongoing work on animal activity licensing in England, which includes the licensing of pet vendors.

As part of a coalition of animal protection organisations, we’re seizing this opportunity to call on Environment Secretary Michael Gove, to bring an end to the sale of primates as pets.

The protect primates campaign

The petition was organised by a coalition of veterinary and animal welfare organisations. The charities we worked with included Born Free, British Veterinary Association, Captive Animals Protection Society, Four Paws, One Kind and Wild Futures.

Spearheaded by Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall (Wild Futures’ constituency) and Sue Hayman MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Defra), the petition was handed in at the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday 17 October, having attracted more than 55,000 signatures.

An estimated 5,000 primates are being kept as pets in the UK, we – and other rescue groups like Wild Futures – receive approximately one call a week relating to the welfare of a monkey. Sadly these incidents are on the rise. In sixty per cent of the cases that we investigated, primates were being kept on their own.

A house will never be their home

We believe that the welfare needs of primates can never be met in a house, shed or garden cage and that these complex creatures are unsuitable companion animals. Eloise Shavelar, our Senior Campaign Manager explains:

However well intentioned an owner may be, primates are not suitable as pets and can suffer terribly in domestic captivity. That's why we and other organisations are campaigning to bring about an end to this cruel trade.

Sadly our officers have seen situations where monkeys have been cooped up in bird cages, fed fast food and sugary drinks, deprived of friends of their own kind and suffering from disease.

We fear there are hundreds more that are going through misery behind closed doors, and we call for urgent action to be taken to stop even more primates ending up in these unnatural conditions.

Extreme levels of suffering

In many cases, primates are also kept alone, which is devastating for these highly social animals. Rachel Hevesi, Director at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary – one of our partner organisations in the campaign – said:

The trend for keeping primates appears to be on the up, but because of the specific needs of these animals, their level of suffering can be extreme.

As well as dietary and environmental requirements, primates are highly social animals and they have extremely complex behavioural and social needs – but sadly in many cases they are being kept alone. All of the monkeys rescued by Wild Futures have physical or psychological problems due to their time as pets.

Primates need a spacious and enriched environment that challenges their intelligent brains and allows for them to behave like primates should. Often primates are kept in entirely inappropriate housing such as indoor parrot cages, aviaries and sheds. These types of environments can’t provide for their complex physical and social needs.

Mickey the marmoset

They’re intelligent, sentient animals who, like humans, can become depressed without adequate stimulation.

As a result, they may self-mutilate, pluck out their own hair, or display behaviour such as rocking and self-hugging – all potential signs of stress or traumatic experiences.

In addition to this, poor diet and lack of access to sunlight leads to the painful condition of Metabolic Bone Disease, known as rickets in humans, which is regularly seen in pet primates coming into care.

Also like humans, primates rely on their mothers, often until adulthood and beyond. Yet they can be taken from them at just a few weeks old to be hand-reared by humans, a distressing and cruel practice. This is no replacement for their mother’s care, and can cause behavioural issues throughout their lives.

Moving forward for Primates

We'll be continuing to campaign and gather signatures to end the primate pet trade in both England and Wales. Take action now and join us.

You can stay up to date with our campaign to end the primate pet trade, and our other campaigns, by joining our campaigns network.

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