As one of only a few monkey sanctuaries in the UK, the Monkey Sanctuary Trust is increasingly called upon to re-home unwanted and neglected ex-pet monkeys from the UK primate pet trade. In recent years, this has meant providing sanctuary for ten capuchin monkeys. Since 2001, we have been working hard to end the trade in primates for pets and raise awareness of the cruelty often associated with it.
This has all taken place during a period when the UK Government has been reviewing three important pieces of legislation and we have been a major contributor to this consultation process.
The new Animal Welfare Act updates and amalgamates many outdated Acts making the law clear and appropriate for today. The new Animal Welfare Act has the potential to substantially restrict the keeping of primates in the UK to 'specialist keepers' which, although nowhere near a complete ban, will prevent monkeys being kept as pets in back gardens across Britain. We have been pleased to find a great deal of support from a number of members of the House of Lords; in particular, Baroness Miller, Lib Dem spokesperson on Environment Food and Rural Affairs, who was very helpful presenting our amendments and speaking on our behalf.
The Act came into effect in April 2007 following an announcement in the Queen's speech in December 2006. The Monkey Sanctuary Trust sits on the working group with the task of developing codes of practice for keeping primates. Through these codes of practice, the Trust is pushing for very strict standards.
In addition to the Animal Welfare Act, the Government has been reviewing the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA) which currently requires owners of most monkeys to hold a licence in order to keep them. However, some types of monkeys are not considered 'dangerous enough' to require a licence and sadly these monkeys are given little or no protection. We consider all monkeys dangerous; as wild animals, they are unpredictable and cannot be domesticated. Primates can also carry viruses which are harmful to humans and likewise viruses common to humans can be harmful and even fatal to monkeys. Proposed changes to the DWAA could sadly mean that fewer species of monkey will require a license to be kept and therefore it will be more difficult to ascertain the exact number of monkeys living in the UK. Again, the Trust is opposed to these changes and has been presenting strong arguments to make licensing compulsory for all primates. However, the Government looks unlikely to change its position and therefore the Animal Welfare Act is even more vital in the battle against the primate pet trade.
International trade and movement of primates has been difficult to identify; following a recent review of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Article 8.2, it became apparent that very little is recorded and known about it. Our links with primate sanctuaries overseas enabled us to gather evidence to show that the UK primate pet trade did have an impact on the wild population in the native countries. We thought CITES Article 8.2 might represent another potential way to end the trade in primates as pets in the UK but, again, the Government has pointed us back to the Animal Welfare Act as the vehicle to protect primates.
The Monkey Sanctuary Trust remains committed to ending the trade in primates as pets in the UK and will continue to put pressure on the Government (who acknowledge that it is inappropriate to keep a monkey as a pet) to achieve this.
So as it is pretty much summed up in the last paragraph, our game needs to basically help end the primate pet trade. They aren't cute, they aren't docile. They are nasty (...when kept as pets).