The Kept Animals Bill: A big step – but will it take us far enough?

This month the Government has started the process of introducing legislation to restrict the private keeping of primates. It will not be the ban that we have been calling for, but it should go a long way to ending the suffering of many primates in this cruel trade.

Wild Futures has led the call to end the trade and keeping of primates as pets for over twenty years so the Kept Animals Bill is a significant victory for our charity and the amazing partner organisations and supporters who have joined us over the years.

The legislation does not come into force until it has completed its passage through Parliament and this Bill has taken just one of the 12 steps needed for it to become law as the Kept Animals Act. This gives the opportunity for debate and amendments to be suggested and voted on in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both Houses must agree the final wording before the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament.

Wild Futures has contributed to several public consultations and Calls for Evidence; we have been invited to give written and oral evidence in Parliament, had ministers of various political parties and governments visit our sanctuary, just to get to this stage. Defra is currently inviting us to discuss this Bill, so the conversation does not end here.

The Government is proposing restricting private keeping to licensed specialist keepers who adhere to “zoo-level welfare” with the intention that the rest of the trade and keeping will be gradually phased out. We are calling for clarification on what they mean by “zoo-level welfare” as we have concerns on the interpretation of this standard.

Within these limitations, we believe that:

  • All keepers must be registered with a centralized body, their properties inspected by experts and then licensed as appropriate.
  • All privately owned primates must be microchipped.
  • The massive shortage of rescue and sanctuary facilities means that a grandfather clause is a necessary compromise, by which owners may be able to keep their (non-breeding) primates until a suitable facility is found.
  • Clear definitions and criteria must support animal welfare and make enforcement simpler.
  • Adequate enforcement and penalties are essential to the success of the legislation.

Although we still have work to do to end the suffering of primates as pets, this is a victory which should end the worst of the suffering of the many primates kept in bird cages and other such totally unsuitable housing!

We owe a huge thank you to the tens of thousands of wonderful people who signed our petitions, those that sponsored our Parliamentary Receptions and supported us at conferences.

Your voices made the difference.