I just want to say at the outset that I am sure there are extremely good reasons why it is unethical to have a pet monkey. There are probably countless arguments to be made as to why personal ownership of a monkey or other primate as a pet is a terrible idea. Until this moment, I have never wanted to own a monkey — I didn’t even know it was an option. As someone with no opinions on monkey ownership and no knowledge of the needs and habit of monkeys, it would be absolutely absurd for me to complain about a proposed policy in a country I don’t even live in to ban having monkeys as pets. And yet, somehow, my gut reaction to the UK Labour Party announcing a total ban on pet monkeys as an election promise is to shake my fist defiantly at God and scream ‘Don’t tread on me!!!’
Is it not my right, as a UK citizen (note: I am not a UK citizen), to have in my home a capuchin or rhesus macaque? Was I not placed on this Earth by our divine creator so that I might enjoy the company of a lemur? A lemur named Señor Littlehands, who I consider to be my best friend? If Labour wins the election, the answer, it turns out, is ‘No.’
According to the Labour Party, an estimated 5,000 monkeys are kept as pets in the UK, often in cages and without “proper lighting and nutrition” which can cause “painful and debilitating diseases such as metabolic bone disease”. Yeah, look, fair enough honestly.
In a statement, shadow environment minister Luke Pollard said that (paraphrasing here) it is pretty fucked up that you can just buy a monkey:
It is astonishing that it is still entirely legal to keep primates as pets, regardless of how endangered or dangerous the animal is. Anyone can browse the internet and buy a primate with little or no checks and inspections.
We know that primates are very intelligent, social animals with complex needs that simply cannot be met in a home environment.
Labour will ban people from keeping pet primates as part of our plans to bring Britain’s animal welfare laws into the 21st century.
The ban would extend to a diverse range of primates that includes marmosets, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and lemurs which, just as an aside, allowed me to discover that I have been confusing marmosets with marmots for my entire life.
This specific commitment comes ahead of a broader ‘animal welfare plan‘ that the party is due to launch in the coming weeks.