Born Free cautiously welcomes the Animal Welfare (Primate Licences) (England) Regulations, which were endorsed by a Delegated Legislation Committee in the House of Commons on 31st January.
The Regulations, which were published on 14th December and will sit underneath the Animal Welfare Act, will make it illegal for private citizens in England to own and keep primates without a licence from April 2026. According to the government, in order to obtain a licence a keeper will need to demonstrate that they can keep their animals to ‘zoo standards’.
Responding to the news, Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said:
“Born Free has campaigned alongside many other organisations for a ban on the trade in and keeping of privately kept primates for many years, which we have argued would be a simple, proportionate, and economic solution to the widely acknowledged problems associated with pet primate keeping, and which has the support of the overwhelming majority of the British public.
“While these new Regulations reflect an important recognition by government that the current situation is untenable, they do not ban the trade in and keeping of pet primates as the government has repeatedly promised, but rather introduce a licensing scheme for primate keepers who would potentially be able to breed and trade their primates with other keepers. We hope that the Regulations will reduce the suffering of many primates, although they will need to be accompanied by strict guidance and criteria, and appropriate training and resources for already overstretched local authorities who will be charged with operating the licensing system, if they are to be effective.
“The Regulations also fail to provide for those animals currently in private ownership whose owners will not meet licensing criteria, and who will be breaking the law if they still have their animals when it comes into force in 2026. This could create a big demand for sanctuary space which simply isn’t available, lead to the euthanasia of animals where there are no appropriate homes available or result in many animals continuing to be kept illegally in poor conditions.”
The Regulations now pass to the House of Lords where they are due to be considered on 13th February before becoming law. Born Free will continue to highlight the challenges, and work with government, local authorities and our partner organisations to ensure the Regulations, and any associated guidance, are implemented in a way that will bring an end to the suffering of so many of our closest living relatives who simply don’t belong in people’s homes.
Find out more about the issues surrounding the keeping of primates as pets: