Labour announces plans for ‘total ban’ on keeping monkeys as pets

A Labour government would introduce a “total ban” on keeping or selling monkeys as pets, the party has announced.

There are an estimated 5,000 primates currently kept as pets in the UK, Labour said. The new plans would mean that having marmosets, capuchins, squirrel monkeys and lemurs as domestic animals would be made illegal.

The party claimed that primates kept as pets are often “denied proper lighting and nutrition, causing painful and debilitating diseases such as metabolic bone disease”.

These animals are also regularly being “taken away from their mothers at a young age and kept in isolation, becoming depressed and displaying behaviour such as self-mutilation, hair pulling and rocking back and forth”, the party said in a statement.

Labour manifesto

An estimated 5,000 primates were being kept as pets in the UK (Photo: Getty)

The proposed move, already in force in other European countries, forms part of Labour’s animal welfare manifesto due to be published later this month.

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Shadow environment minister Luke Pollard said: “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.”

‘Unnecessary suffering’

‘Labour will ban people from keeping pet primates as part of our plans to bring Britain’s animal welfare laws into the 21st century,’ Shadow environment minister Luke Pollard said (Photo: Getty)

Existing legislation stating that animal owners must prevent “unnecessary suffering” is “difficult to enforce and a breach of its provisions is not an offence”, Labour said.

It added that the RSPCA said it received a call nearly every week relating to the welfare of pet primates and some calls referred to up to 30 animals.

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Environment minister Zac Goldsmith said: “Monkeys and other primates are wild animals with highly complex needs. Through the extraordinary work of Monkey World’s Dr Alison Cronin, I have seen first hand how keeping them as pets causes immense suffering. But it is perfectly legal to buy and sell them in the UK.

“The waiting list of unwanted primates at her rescue centre is longer than she can accommodate and so I have asked the department to look at the options for banning the trade altogether. We are a nation of animal lovers, and the Conservatives will always be the party of animal welfare.”

Additional reporting from Press Association.

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Seals spotted with plastic frisbees caught on their heads in Norfolk

Volunteers have spotted two seals with plastic flying rings stuck around their necks and two tangled in netting on the Norfolk coast.

Friends of Horsey Seals wildlife group saw the animals in the Horsey area over the last fortnight.

Up until now, volunteers have only been able to save three seals with their necks trapped in such discs, and only after they were weakened enough to be caught.

The four animals spotted in recent sightings remain in the wild.

Rise in animals impacted

The animal welfare charity has recorded a rise in incidents affecting animals involving plastic litter from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018, with a fourfold rise in seals affected by incidents involving plastic litter (Photo: PA)

The sightings come as the RSPCA reported the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high.

The RSPCA recorded a rise in incidents from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018.

Some animals are being disproportionately affected by plastic, the charity said, with a fourfold rise in seals.

There were 28 such incidents recorded in 2018 compared with five in 2015, the RSPCA said.

Local volunteers have launched a leaflet campaign to encourage people to take home flying rings that could harm seals.

Friends of Horsey Seals said on its website: “The growth of the seal leads to terrible cuts as the plastic cuts into its flesh and ultimately impedes its ability to catch fish and restricts swallowing.

“A seal with a ring around its neck cannot help itself – but you can help by always taking your flying/throwing rings, and all plastic items home with you.”

History of seals impacted

RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years (Photo: PA)

In Norfolk there have already been three reported cases of seals who got plastic flying discs stuck round their necks, which then restricted their growth and cut into their flesh.

Mrs Frisbee was rescued in 2017 and released the following year, and a second seal, called Pinkafo, was rescued last December and released in May.

A third seal was named Sir David, after Sir David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet II series raised awareness of the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution.

The disc was cut off Sir David’s neck by a vet using surgical scissors and he was released back into the wild last month after three months in the care of the RSPCA.

Additional reporting from Press Association.

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A UK-US trade deal. Never mind the economics (at least for a moment). Feel the politics.

“While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit,” Dominic Walsh of Open Europe wrote recently on this site, “their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise.” This is the place to start when considering a possible UK-US agreement on trade.  Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for one is as much political as economic: a successful deal would show Britain, as it moves a bit further from the EU, also moving a bit closer to America.

Such a rebalancing is a strategic consequence of Brexit, at least in the eyes of many backers of leaving the EU.  Future trade deals were a Vote Leave EU referendum priority – though it may be significant that the United States was not one of the headline countries named.  Perhaps the reason was a wariness of anti-American sentiment among a section of the voting public.  None the less, the prospect of a trade agreement with the United States was mooted during the 2016 campaign: hence Barack Obama’s line, written for him by Team Cameron, of Britain being “at the back of the queue” for such a deal.

The obstacles to one are formidable.  For while the Prime Minister is bound to view it through the lens of politics, Donald Trump is more likely to do through that of economics – though the one admittedly tends to blur into the other.  America’s approach to such matters as food safety and animal welfare, environmental protection and intellectual property rights is different from ours in any event.  Never mind the red herring of chlorinated chickens – so to speak – or autopilot claims from Corbynistas about NHS selloffs. The real action is elsewhere.  The United States has long had a protectionist streak, and is resistant to opening up its financial services markets, for example.

The conventional view is that Trump is the biggest America Firster of all; that he would drive a hard bargain, that he has the muscle to do so – and that he wouldn’t be in control of an agreement anyway.  Congress could block one if it wished, and might well do so in the event of No Deal, since the Irish-American lobby is as well-entrenched as ever.  It has been a headache for British governments over Ireland-linked matters before: remember the McBride principles.  A different take is that politics may win out in the end, because both Trump and Congress will want a UK trade deal in order to put economic and political pressure on the EU: we will publish more about that later this week.

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is visiting Britain.  He said yesterday that the UK will be “first in line” for a trade agreement post-Brexit – a deliberate counter to Obama’s line.  Bolton will be dangling the prospect as an inducement.  He will want Johnson to take a more resistant line to Huawei than Theresa May did, and for the UK to move closer to America’s position on Iran.  But the possibility of early sector deals – or at least the exclusion of Britain from new pro-protection moves – seems to be real enough.  As with the NHS, policing, immigration and stop and search, so with trade.  Johnson wants progress towards a quick win as a possible election looms.

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Oliver Heald: The Prime Minister has a duty to continue our record on animal welfare

Sir Oliver Heald is Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire. 

Britain prides itself on being a nation of animal lovers. We were the first country in the world to introduce legislation on animal welfare, as long ago as 1822, when we criminalised the unnecessary suffering of some domesticated animals. Skip forward to the modern day, currently an estimated 12 million households – that’s 44 per cent of us – are pet owners.

The British public has time and time again shown outrage at the poor treatment of animals, with mass movements against cruelty at home and abroad, not least with the latest protests against commercial whaling resuming in Japan.

As a strong supporter of animal welfare Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister, has a duty to respond to the national interest by maintaining and enhancing our record on animal welfare, while continuing to encourage our global partners to also do more.

Conservatives have long been effective guardians of animal welfare. From introducing mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses to banning the cruel use of electric shock collars, ending third-party sales of puppies and kittens to committing to banning the use of wild animals in circuses, it was a Conservative Government that led the charge to increase these protections for animals. Theresa May repeatedly called animal welfare “a priority”, while Michael Gove cemented his position as a most effective minister for the environment with real attention to animal protections.

The issue of animal cruelty has a particular resonance for me. I was struck by the story of my constituent, PC Dave Wardell, and Finn the police dog. Finn had been injured in a horrific knife attack, resulting in four hours of surgery that just saved his life, and although he had risked his life to save his handler, his case was treated like criminal damage in the legal system; like he was a piece of equipment instead of a living being.

A change in the law was crucial – these brave creatures deserve justice too. So I was delighted when my Private Member’s Bill calling for legal recognition of service animals was championed by Members from across the House and adopted by the Government.

During the passage of Finn’s Law, it became clear that the same punishment should also apply to offences against any animal. Essential work is now progressing to change the law. Although Britain has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, our maximum penalties for animal abusers are still among the lowest, at just six months’ maximum imprisonment. This meant that regardless of the extreme brutality of the action, even to man’s best friend, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Judges in several instances expressed a desire for the increase, following horrific cases with instances of cruelty that should never be repeated.

However, the Government has recognised this needs to change. A new Bill, which received its Second Reading recently, will extend the maximum penalty to five years’ imprisonment, making it one of the toughest penalties in the world. This is exactly the stance we need to be taking, and it appropriately reflects that those who inflict cruelty on animals will be subject to the full force of the law.

The UK should also be proud of its global efforts to protect animals. The 2018 Ivory Act, backed by Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, is one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, while last October, London hosted a global conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) to drive greater change. This is the sort of action we need to see: stringent regulations, the use of diplomatic links to discuss corruption and exploitation, and giving animal abuse and trafficking the gravitas of a serious global issue that also acknowledges its potential to fund transnational organised crime.

Building on this record, we can be strong international advocates for further closures of markets for other species under threat, such as pushing for an end to tiger farming.

Going further, the banning of imports of so-called ‘trophies’ would indicate the severity of the issue and help reduce both supply and demand. While the sale of ivory is banned in the UK, imports of ‘trophies’, hunting momentos which are often in the form of the body parts of endangered species, are allowed back into the UK with a special permit. If the UK wants to be a world leader on these issues, then it must stand firm against this behaviour, and I’m delighted that Michael Gove pledged his support for this campaign as one of his last acts as Environment Secretary.

As the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson must send a signal of zero tolerance for animal abuse and exploitation and use our global influence to drive further action.

Globally, Britain already has some of the highest animal welfare standards, but we must do more. Post-Brexit we can be even more ambitious. With 81 per cent of the British public preferring animal welfare laws to be maintained or extended after Brexit, stronger enforcement of these standards must inform decision-making and can be integral in the upcoming Environment Bill and Agriculture Bill. Actions like banning imports of foie gras, ending live animal exports, and introducing more effective labelling of products would embrace these ambitions and lead us towards a Green Brexit.

Our new Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, has long been a champion for animals, and campaigned on many of these causes. I look forward to seeing her in action after recess, when the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill will be one of the first Bills back in the House.

We must live up to our reputation as not only a nation of animal lovers, but as a world leader in protecting and enhancing their welfare. It is up to the new Prime Minister and Environment Secretary to lead us there.

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