A total ban on keeping monkeys as pets would be brought in under a Labour government to stop up to 5,000 primates being kept in cages in the UK.
Labour announced it would make it illegal to train or keep marmosets, capuchins, squirrel monkeys and lemurs, as the political parties begin to set out their policies ahead of a possible general election this autumn.
Animal welfare issues harmed the Conservatives in the 2017 election, after the party pledged to hold a free vote on hunting and was criticised for failing to include a policy on banning the ivory trade in its manifesto.
Ahead of a potential poll this autumn, Labour restated its commitment to banning the keeping of monkeys, as part of its animal welfare manifesto due to be published in the next few weeks.
Luke Pollard, the shadow environment minister, 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.”
Labour said an estimated 5,000 primates are being kept as pets in the UK, but they are highly intelligent animals and not suitable to be kept in captivity.
Current legislation states that animal owners must prevent “unnecessary suffering” and must take “all reasonable steps to meet their animal’s needs”, but Labour argued it is difficult to enforce and a breach of its provisions is not an offence.