Registered Charity Number: SC041299

OneKind welcomes exotic pet trade debate

Date Posted: 09 Dec 2015

The exotic pet trade is growing, and with it so are our concerns over the welfare of the animals involved, and the potential impacts it is having on conservation.

That’s why we welcomed the debate held in Parliament today that demonstrated an emerging cross-party consensus that action is needed to address the serious issues around the exotic pet trade.

Many MPs from all the main parties participated, all expressing their concerns that the trade has grown out of control. In particular, the problems caused by buying and selling animals on the internet were raised, as well as abandonments and the impact of the exotic pet trade on wild populations. This quote from Scottish MP Alan Brown is a good summary:

“Given what we have heard about horror purchases on the internet, there could also be a campaign called “Four Beers and One Click Away”, because we know it is too easy for someone on a Saturday night to get an idea, go on the internet and—lo and behold—purchase almost anything they want.

On a more serious matter, the main issues with keeping exotic pets are welfare and environmental concerns. While many animals might be covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora, any exotic animals taken from the wild can impact on conservation. Human behaviour often drives people to desire to be ever more exclusive, and to do that, they crave even more exotic animals. I think it is fair to say that even the legal exotic pet trade can help to drive the illegal trade, as people seek to go one better and become more exclusive. That, of course, further endangers at-risk species.”

Many also raised the fact that current legislation is not fit for purpose and there are serious enforcement challenges for Local Authorities in particular. Angela Smith MP, for example, asked that the “outdated” Pet Animals Act 1951 be fully reviewed, and highlighted that “local authorities do not have the time, resources or guidance necessary to curb the sale of exotic animals.” Similarly, Henry Bellingham MP noted that “the law is out of date” and “there is an argument for updating and making the existing legislation fit for purpose. I also ask the Minister to look at the training and capacity of local authority licensing officers.”

Scotland has already committed to a full review of the legislation around exotic pet vending and keeping, and this debate underlines the importance of this review. No such review has been pledged for the rest of the UK yet, but the Minister did at least make an important statement about the keeping of primates as pets.

OneKind has long called for a ban on the private keeping of primates, and we are currently working in a large coalition in support of such a ban across the UK. You can support the campaign here. Today, George Eustice, the Minister responsible said that it was his view that “it would already be a clear breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for anyone to have a primate in a domestic setting”, and that he is considering a full ban. This is excellent news. Primates are highly intelligent animals with complex needs that cannot be met in a domestic environment, and a ban cannot come quick enough.