BVA vets call for ban on pet primates

14 January 2014

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is today calling on the Government to introduce a ban on the keeping of primates as private pets.

Vets at the BVA have been considering the potential welfare concerns of such animals in response to an Efra select committee inquiry on the issue. They have concluded that it is almost impossible for private owners to provide primates with appropriate care as defined by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

BVA President Robin Hargreaves said:
“We appreciate that many people who keep primates privately care deeply for their pets and do their utmost to provide for them appropriately. However, primates are long-lived, intelligent, socially-complex animals and we can think of no circumstances where they would benefit from being kept as a pet.

“Primates cannot be kept on their own. They need at least one companion in order to express natural behaviour. They require both an indoor and outdoor enclosure to ensure adequate exercise and exposure to UV light, and each species has specific dietary requirements.

“These animals are not domesticated companions like dogs and cats, or even livestock, and are extraordinarily difficult to care for properly. Very few people can provide the necessary resources to meet their welfare needs. We therefore favour a ban on the keeping of primates as private pets.”

As part of the consultation BVA considered the possibility that primate welfare could be improved through better regulation or licensing but members did not feel these options went far enough given the difficulties involved in meeting primates’ basic welfare needs.

The only exception to the ban recommended by BVA would be to allow individuals who are working in partnership with accredited zoos to breed primates for conservation purposes.

BVA also recognises that a ban could not be enforced immediately and effective plans, including an appropriate transition period, would be needed to secure suitable accommodation for existing pet primates.

Further Information

1. More information about the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee inquiry into primates as pets

2. The Efra Committee has published the BVA’s consultation response on primates as pets

3. The five welfare needs of animals enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006  include:

  • its need for a suitable environment 
  • its need for a suitable diet 
  • its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns 
  • any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

BVA Media Office