Tuesday, 24 December 2013

An e-petition that can really make a difference to primates in the UK.

You may think the UK is a nation of animal lovers and well advanced in its laws regarding what we can keep as a pet. Unfortunately this is not true, for instance did you know you can still keep a primate as a pet. Yes you did read that correctly. In the UK you can legally keep many different species of primates as pets including:

          Marmoset                  Ring Tailed Lemur                Squirrel Monkey                                                                   Capuchin

Some, like Marmosets, you do not even need a license to own, and even the ones that do there is an extremely high non compliance rate.Wild Futures (a primate welfare charity) estimates there are at least 5,000 privately owned primates as pets in the UK. 

Wild Futures has recently launched a new official Government e-petition on banning primates as pets in the UK, which reaches a debate in parliament if it reaches 100,000 signatures. This is light of the new EFRA inquiry reviewing primates as pets, click here for information.

Please sign and share this e-petition and show the Government keep primates as pets is wrong and it should be banned - click here to sign the petition.

Only together can we make a stand here and now and end this ridiculous pet trade. Generations will look back on what we do today and ask us what did we do. Lets tell them we did the right thing.


Please read on for more information on why primates do not make good pets.

Primates suffer mentally and physically as pets as they are often kept on their own, in small, confined environments without much stimulation or the correct diet. Some of Wild Futures rescued primates have diabetes (not found in the wild) while nearly all sort of repetitive behaviour problem; like head twisting or clapping. 

None have suffered more than Joey.

From Wild Futures website:

"Joey is a black-capped capuchin monkey with a sad past and a much brighter future. He was rescued by wild futures when his owner abandoned him. Joey had been caught in the wild in South America and transported to Camden Town, London where he was kept in a flat for 9 years.

Joey had been living in a cage measuring 6ft/3ft/3ft and was kept company by a large-screen TV. He was left in the cage for 22 hours every day and due to this lack of exercise, a poor diet, cramped living conditions and lack of sunlight, Joey developed weak bones, a curved, fused spine and other disabilities that mean that later in life he will suffer from osteoporosis and other bone conditions. More disturbingly, when the primate welfare team from the Sanctuary first came to rescue Joey they found him displaying repetitive and contstant sterio-typical behaviours, where he would rock backwards and forwards in distress."

"Although the Monkey Sanctuary's vets were initially pessimistic about Joey's chances for survival and for the quality of life that he could lead with his disabilities, Joey suprised us all. On the third day he was here in Cornwall he finally emerged tentitively from his indoor enclosure and came out into the outside, feeling the sun on his face and bones finally, after ten years.
Joey will never have the same stamina or abilities as the other monkeys but he can walk, climb, run and jump and is capable of socialising and playing."

Now having been at the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary for many years Joey has a best friend Kodak who is a very large capuchin and takes care of Joey. Finally thanks to Wild Futures Joey will be able to live the best life possible with the protection he deserves.

Kodak (right) and Joey (left) now enjoying a great life with each other

Once again please sign the e-petition telling the Government to ban primates as pets - click here

If you would like to adopt Joey or any primates in Wild Futures care please visit www.adoptamonkey.org

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Why are we still testing on animals?

In March 2013 a complete and total ban on animal testing for cosmetics was implemented in the EU (BUAV report). This was and still is fantastic news, however, we still allow animal experiments to continue for medical research. 4,033,310 animals were used last year for medical experiments in the UK, which is an increase of 9% from 2011. Among those animals being tested in are well over 2,500 primates in ten laboratories around the UK (1). This is in spite of overwhelming scientific research showing us that this is no longer necessary, just look at the Dr Hadwen Trust.

The arguments for animal testing no longer stack up, for example, one often used pro argument is that we have to test on animals to know it's safe for humans. Well humans are vastly different from the animals used in testing and there have been many cases of drugs going horribly wrong; after having no negative results in animals. Arthritis drug Opren is known o have killed 61 people. Over 3,500 cases of severe reactions have been documented. Opren was tested on monkeys without problems (2).

Another one is that there are no techniques to replace animal testing, well that is also wrong. There are many ways to replace it and here is a list of them - click here (point 9).

Above all it is just immoral and wrong to abuse the lives of animals in such a heartless and cruel way. I was going to include pictures of what really goes on in these labs, but I decided not to. There is a link at the bottom where you can see some.

Yesterday I went on a protest organised by the Anti-Vivisection Coalition (AVC), below is how it went.

AVC's first ever UK protest was to free the primates being kept at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Controls (NIBSC). I joined over fifty other people that chose to spend their Saturday afternoon in the cold making a stand against the suffering these animals have to endure. The main purpose was to raise awareness of what this lab is doing and I caught up with the Head of the AVC, Luke Steele, to see how he thought the day went.

Luke Steele, Head of AVC
"We have been in local newspapers, on the radio and TV and have reached over 100,00 people who did not know this lab was here and what experiments it carried out." When I asked him about if the NIBSC had been in contact he continues "we have not had any contact with the NIBSC apart from coordinating the protest, the directors just don't want to talk to us."

Luke said the next step is a protest in central London outside the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency head office. They run the NIBSC and this will be a high profile event that should attract even greater media coverage. The AVC's goal is to end all animal experimentation and they believe animals deserve a right to live without fear or pain.

The biggest scandal that I learnt about while involved with the AVC protest is that the NIBSC is wholly owned by the British Government. The primate experimentation programme is funded through public funds. This means that the tax I pay goes someway to support what truly disgusts me, so I am well within my rights to put an end to this. It also makes me think about what else my money is going towards and why it is so important for everyone to lobby their MPs on these issues.

At the end of the day what we have is an old out of date system that needs complete overhauling. Just because we have used animal testing in the past does not validate for why we continue to use it. Without the people and organisations standing up to end animal experimentation this cruel practice will continue and the truth will remain untold.

1. Statistics on number of animals being used for animal experimentation - click here
2. Source for animal experiments gone wrong in humans - click here
3. Clear reasons why animal experiments are no longer necessary - click here
4. Pictures of the truth to what animal experiments really look like (warning graphic images) - click here

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

99 problems but meat ain't one!

I am sure you have heard about Beyonce and Jay-Z embracing a Vegan diet for 22 days leading up to Jay-Z's 44th birthday on Christmas day. Jay-Z seems to be leading the charge and the main reason behind this seems to be one of health and cleansing driven by their personal trainer who is a Vegan.

On Jay-Z's website he wrote:
'This all began a few months back when a good friend and vegan challenged me to embrace a plant-based breakfast everyday. It was surprisingly easier on me than I thought.'
He added: 'It just feels right! So you can call it a spiritual and physical cleanse. I will post my progress. Any professional vegans out there that have any great food spots please help out! Please!
'I don't know what happens after Christmas. A semi-vegan, a full plant-based diet? Or just a spiritual and physical challenge? We'll see. P.S. B (Beyonce) is also joining me.'

For me this is fantastic as they are worldwide celebrities with huge fan bases and influence. I have already seen loads of messages left by fans saying how this has inspired them to find out more about plant-based food. The impact of this on saving animals from being slaughtered could be massive.

Unfortunately some members of the Vegan community have only been negative about this picking up on the fact that Beyonce does wear fur and other animal skins. Also, she was seen wearing fur the day after this announcement came out, a bit of a silly blunder her PR team should have picked up on. Now I am in no way defending this as I am sickened by the slaughter and process that goes on with animal products such as fur and leather. What I will say is that the fact they are trying a Vegan diet means it is getting into worldwide news, and media coverage we could only dream about.

I don't care if they are only using it for a fad spiritual diet or jumping on a bandwagon, great, jump on and jump high. Everyone who embraces eating or wearing less animals in their life makes a big difference, especially to the perception of what a Vegan is or what plant-based food is. It is unrealistic to think that once someone tries to embrace aspects of Veganism it will all happen in one go. It is a transitional thing that one learns more about while going down that path.

I went Vegan 6 1/2 years ago and it took me the best part of 6 months to realise things I couldn't eat or what I couldn't buy. If someone had attacked me for making a mistake what good does that do. 

Who is going to want to join a group of people that just make negative comments and criticise you for not doing it, as they perceive, correctly. I know some vegans who rather than wearing an old pair of leather shoes bought before turning vegan (which in my eyes has zero impact on cruelty and environment) they wear a new plastic pair perhaps made from a sweat shop in China. That is extremely damaging to our planet and to human rights. I know what the definition of a vegan is, but you have to look at the wider picture.

Lets all be happy, positive and support anyone who wants to do anything remotely connected, like not eating meat for one day. If everyone did that it would make a profound difference to animals saved and the impact upon our planet.

What links the photos above? They are all Vegan & all different, there is no stereotype.

Perceptions are changing and this will only help it. I was in a meeting the other day and they said grab some food, I said "I'm Vegan", they said "Oh, you don't look like a vegan". We must end that vegans have a certain look, anyone can be vegan and be........well normal, well nourished and level headed. We must support what people like Jay-Z are doing and encourage it more. 

For more advice on how to try veganism and for general information please visit the Vegan Society website - http://www.vegansociety.com/
or VIVA for awareness of what really happens in animal industries - http://www.viva.org.uk/

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Lion, the Witch and the photo!

There will not be many people who have not yet seen the photo below. This is Melissa Bacham, a USA TV presenter and proud hunter of what appears to be of anything that breathes. A massive uproar has begun since she posted this photo of her killing a lion in South Africa; and rightly so. However, what I wanted to discuss was the issue of, firstly how anyone could do such a thing, but secondly looking at what message this sends out to the younger generations growing up about respecting the creatures we share this planet with.

Melissa Bacham smiles proudly over her kill of a majestic Lion in South Africa.
Lets get my views out the way. I think what Melissa has done is disgusting and no animal should be killed, especially in this way for sport. It is not for survival or food, just a glammed up idiot who thinks pulling the trigger on a machine is somehow a thrill. Well no you are wrong and I completely condemn this action and the abuse and killing of all animals around the world.

I simply cannot comprehend how anyone can simply point a gun at an animal and end its life like that. Also, I do not see a difference between the killing of any animal be that a cow, chicken, dog or lion, but I have a serious problem when it is for photo opportunities.

The message this sends out to people is terrible. It's OK to kill whatever we like because we can. What about showing respect for a creature that was here before we were and will be here after we go (as long as we don't shoot them all before we disappear). People then grow up with this disconnect from wildlife and see it as a commodity to exploit rather than live in harmony with.

The Arguments
I am honest enough to say I don't know enough about the issues around trophy hunting like this, but it seems like the main arguments for are:
  • Brings money into the country creating jobs and funding conservation efforts
  • Population control as too many top predators can cause a lack of prey
  • Saves more lions as males will fight other males and if they take over a pride will kill all the young
  • Link for pro arguments click here
The main arguments against are:
  • Only 30,000 left in the wild and this is pushing lions towards being critically endangered
  • Most Lions kept for canned "Trophy" hunting are reared on farms or private reserves especially for this
  • The Lion's pride is destabilised and another male will come in and kill all the young
  • Hardly any of the money made with canned hunting reaches the actual conservation projects
  • The total lack of respect for such a magnificent animal where the main purpose seems to be to pose and smile with your prize, and the message this sends out especially to children
  • Link for against arguments click here
Instead of asking you to sign a petition or donate to Lion Aid, I simply want you to make your own mind up. Please feel free to comment or send me a message and lets get talking.

But please if you shoot an animal may it only be with a camera and nothing else. I could have gone in with a joke about a cannon camera, but I thought best not to.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The only venomous Primate in the world

Have you heard of a Slow Loirs? Well you may not have heard of one, but quite possibly seen one on a famous youtube clip called 'Tickling the Slow Loris'. The clip shows a woman, who has one as a pet, tickling it and it looks like the Slow Loris is enjoying it. In fact it is in it's defence mode, which is where the Slow Loris freezes.

Unfortunately this video has cause a worldwide rush to want a Slow Loris as a pet and this is endangering its very survival.

Interestingly the Slow Loris has venom and this can kill, also the name Slow Loris is not that accurate. They can actually move very fast covering 8km in one night.

I was lucky enough to hear Dr Anna Nekaris talk at an evening lecture in Devon the other week on her work with the Slow Loris. Dr Nekaris has been working with nocturnal primates, especially the Slow Loris for 20 years. What she doesn't know about the Slow Loris is not worth knowing. It was a fabulous talk and so moving with the problems they face, and inspiring about the work she is doing with with her Little Fireface Project - http://www.nocturama.org

Myself with Dr Nekaris after her amazing talk on the plight of the Slow Loris.

Dr Nekaris made a wonderful BBC documentary about her work, but the most crucial bit was the last 7 minutes about the pet trade in the Slow Loris.

Please watch the video (contains scenes of a distressing nature) of why we must stand up for the Slow Loris and not allow people to have them as pets - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF9-Dp3unTU

What can you do to save the Slow Loris:

  1. Sign the petition asking YouTube to remove videos of them as pets - http://www.thepetitionsite.com/318/--if-gte-mso-9xml-wworddocument-wviewnormalwview-wzoom0wzoom-wpunctuationkerning/
  2. Follow the work of the Little Fireface Project
    1. Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/LittleFirefaceProject
    2. Twitter - @littlefireface or Dr Nekaris @queenfireface
    3. Donate to the Little Fireface Project - http://www.nocturama.org/help-the-loris/
    4. Buy some of they great Merchandise - http://www.nocturama.org/help-the-loris/loris-t-shirt-shop/
My new glow in the dark Little Fireface T-shirt

Mini Slow Loris, personally hand knitted by Dr  Nekaris herself

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Primates are not Pets

You may think that the UK is a nation of animal lovers. Well with 6.6 million dogs & 7.7 million cats (1) you may be right, however the laws we have in this country simply do not match that saying. For instances did you know you can (and people do) LEGALLY keep the following primates as pets in the UK:

  • Marmosets
  • Lemurs
  • Squirrel Monkeys
  • Capuchins
  • Spider Monkeys
  • Macaque
  • Vervet Monkeys
  • Tamarins
  • And many more

You don't even need a license to have some of these species as pets & there is an estimated 5,000 primates kept as pets in the UK, although this number could even be as high as 20,000 as there is a high non compliance rate with the licenses (2).

You might think after reading this that owning a primate as a pet would be great as they are cute. You would be wrong. Primates are wild, intelligent animals that live in large social groups and apart from it being wrong to take them away from their family and home, they are also very dangerous. They develop sharp teeth and are immensely strong and will not think twice about biting you.

Unfortunately people do keep them as pets and no idea about their welfare, you just have to see the story about Joey (now living at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary) to understand how much pain they suffer; during their time as a pet and even after they are rescues as a result of the years of captivity.

Watch Joey's story narrated by Stephen Fry here - Joey's Story

Primates are not pets and we need to lay down the laws to protect them and educate people about animals not being there simply for our use. Animals live on this planet with us, were here before us and will be here after we are gone. We cannot live on this planet without animals and its about time we start showing them the respect they deserve.

What you can do:

  • Sign the petition to end the LEGAL primate pet trade for good - sign here
  • Adopt a monkey from Wild Futures and support a fabulous charity, can be done for individuals/couples/families - adoptamonkey or for schools and businesses please send an email to - adoptions@wildfutures.org
  • Volunteer at the monkey sanctuary and have a great experience while helping an amazing charity
  • Become a Wild Futures Ambassador and help raise awareness and money for primates worldwide
  • Support Wild Futures by signing up to their newsletter & follow them on Facebook & Twitter
  • Most importantly tell everyone you know about the fact Primates are not Pets!

2 - http://www.wildfutures.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2009/09/Primates-as-pets_Is-there-a-case-for-regulation-2012_LR.pdf

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

My Journey Up Kilimanjaro

In September 2013 I climbed the tallest free standing mountain in the world at 5,895m, it really is 'The Roof of Africa'.

I did this Climb for two reasons, firstly to raise money for Wild Futures and secondly to raise awareness of the strength of a Vegan diet. I am passionate about both of these and about how our diet is undoubtedly linked with the extinction and survival of our rain forests.

Please enjoy my video below of my trip and I am still taking donations please give what you can, click here.

Please follow me on twitter @lukeberman, like my facebook page www.facebook.com/diaryofaprimatologist or subscribe to this blog.

Ask me any questions you may have.

Big thanks goes to my cousin Joel Goldberg for making this video!


Monday, 11 November 2013

Remember them all for the ultimate sacrifice, "They had no choice".

I thought it be fitting to start my blog on remembrance day with a post to remember all that were lost.

I attended the Animal War Memorial at Brookes Gate (Marble Arch) on Sunday 10th November. Some might say 'why are you showing more respect to animals than your fellow man', I say 'I don't, I have them as equal'. Without one we do not have the other, we live in harmony and without animals millions of men & women would not be alive today.

It was a deeply moving service and the memorial itself is an incredible site. The £2 million monument unveiled in 2004 depicts animals struggling on one side and free on the other. It is a truly impressive scene and I would urge anyone to visit this and not be moved by what you see and read. The 100 or so people that were there honouring the fallen were from all walks of life including current and ex-servicemen.

One soldier at the service was remembering the dog he had by his side while serving in Afghanistan. He knew he would probably not be alive if that dog was not by his side, sniffing out mines, alerting of danger and most importantly being his best friend. He wanted to pay his respects to all that served with him.

Let me say that I have the up most respect for every member of our armed service, but we must not forget the role that animals have played and continue to play. The horses that carried the wounded from the battlefield, the dogs that sniffed out mines, the camels that carried equipment over the deserts, the mice that were sent down tunnels to check if it was safe, the mules dragging artillery around the trenches. The list goes on, but one thing is for sure, millions would not be alive today if not for the sacrifice animals gave, and remember - "They Had No Choice".

So next year why not wear a purple poppy next to your red poppy and show respect for all.

More about the Animals in War memorial - http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk/
Animal Aids campaign on remembering fallen animals - http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/living//2256//