Is monkey meat legal in the United States?

The legality of eating monkey meat in the United States is somewhat ambiguous. While there are no specific federal laws banning the consumption of monkey meat, some states and local jurisdictions have regulations that effectively prohibit it. Much of the uncertainty stems from broader restrictions on the commercial trade and ownership of primates as pets or for food. However, the practice remains extremely rare in the U.S., even where not explicitly outlawed.

Federal laws

There is no federal law in the United States banning the general consumption of monkey meat or the butcher and sale of monkeys for food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have any regulations specifically concerning monkey meat that would prohibit people from eating animals such as monkeys and apes.

However, broader federal policies restrict the capture, sale, and distribution of primates like monkeys and apes in ways that effectively prevent the commercial trade of their meat. For example, under the Lacey Act, it is illegal to import, export, sell, acquire or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of U.S. or Indian law. This covers the commercial hunting and slaughter of wild monkeys.

The Captive Wildlife Safety Act bans the interstate transport and commerce of nonhuman primates and other exotic species as pets. While not directly aimed at monkey meat, this prevents the widespread transport of monkey carcasses across state lines for food.

Finally, the Endangered Species Act and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) bans the import and export of endangered primate species and their body parts. As many primate species are endangered, this effectively prohibits commercial trade in meat from certain monkey species.

State and local laws

While there are no federal bans, several states and local jurisdictions prohibit the sale, possession or consumption of monkey meat both directly and indirectly:

  • California bans the possession of and trade in the body parts of nonhuman primates like monkeys.
  • Florida prohibits the sale of meat from wild game mammals like monkeys.
  • Georgia restricts possession of non-human primates and has banned the import of monkey meat due to disease risks.
  • Illinois prohibits the possession and sale of primate meat.
  • Maryland bans the import, sale, trade or possession of meat from wild animals like monkeys.
  • Massachusetts restricts sale and consumption of meat from wild or exotic animals.
  • Nevada law prohibits possession and sale of uninspected wild game mammal meat from animals like monkeys.
  • New Jersey prohibits anyone from possessing or consuming meat from a primate.
  • New York City health code bans sale or possession of meat from non-domesticated animals like monkeys.
  • Vermont prohibits the sale, trade or distribution of primate parts or meat.
  • Virginia bars the import, sale, offer for sale or possession with intent to sell, non-human primate meat.
  • Washington state prohibits sale, purchase or exchange of meat from prohibited wildlife including nonhuman primates.

Additionally, many local health and food codes prohibit the sale of bushmeat or wild game meat, which would cover monkey meat. Even where not explicitly banned, the practice remains taboo and extremely rare in the United States.

Enforcement issues

There have been very few cases of attempts to sell or consume monkey meat in the United States. Enforcement is largely focused on preventing imports of bushmeat from abroad rather than domestic consumption. CDC customs agents regularly confiscate shipments of African bushmeat including primate meat.

In 1997, a grocery store in California was found to be secretly selling smuggled bushmeat including primate corpses. More recently in 2019, a man in Indiana was investigated for allegedly eating monkey meat he legally hunted in Africa. While no state charges were filed, he did plead guilty to falsifying documents related to bringing the meat into the country.

Most cases involve illegally smuggled bushmeat rather than meat from monkeys hunted or raised domestically. When instances of monkey meat consumption come to light, state fish and wildlife conservation officials typically investigate and bring charges if applicable under their respective state laws.

Disease risks

A major reason monkey meat consumption and sale remain banned and taboo is the high risk of spreading zoonotic diseases. Primates can transmit dangerous pathogens like herpes B and simian foamy viruses to humans. Ebola and monkeypox also originate in primates before jumping to human hosts.

In 2003, a monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. was linked to imported African rodents transported near bushmeat. This increased enforcement efforts to combat clandestine monkey meat trade and consumption.

Additionally, monkeys may be more likely hosts of prion diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) that can cause fatal brain deterioration in humans, similar to mad cow disease.

Cultural stigma

Aside from health concerns, eating monkey meat goes against cultural taboos in the U.S. Monkey are extremely intelligent animals that share 98% to 99% of their DNA with humans. Most Americans oppose eating primate meat on ethical grounds akin to cannibalism.

By contrast, monkey meat consumption has been practiced traditionally in parts of Central and Western Africa. Hunters target species like colobus monkeys as a valued source of bushmeat protein. Some Asian cultures also consume meat from macaque monkeys as folk medicine.

Animal rights concerns

Animal rights advocates strongly oppose monkey meat consumption on ethical grounds. Organizations like the Humane Society condemn the practice as inhumane treatment that inflicts suffering on highly sentient species.

They argue that nonhuman primates have an advanced capacity to experience pain, anxiety and social bonds. Killing monkeys for food is considered emotionally distressing for other members of their social group.

Additionally, some traditional harvesting techniques, like shooting monkeys out of jungle canopy trees, are considered particularly inhumane. Animal activists push for stronger legal protections for primates from hunting, captivity and slaughter.


In summary, while no federal United States law explicitly prohibits eating monkey meat, the practice is outlawed and strictly taboo. State and local regulations ban the commercial sale and possession of monkey meat, especially meat from wild monkeys.

The biggest factors are risks of zoonotic diseases from primate meat and ethical opposition to slaughtering intelligent, emotional animals. Americans overwhelmingly reject monkey consumption for cultural and moral reasons, beyond just legal deterrents.

In the rare cases where people acquire monkey meat through illegal bushmeat trade or personal hunting, state authorities typically intervene. But overall, eating monkeys remains extremely taboo and virtually unheard of in the United States.

State Law regarding monkey meat
California Bans possession and trade of nonhuman primate body parts
Florida Prohibits sale of wild game mammal meat like monkeys
Georgia Restricts possession of primates and banned monkey meat imports
Illinois Prohibits possession and sale of primate meat
Maryland Bans import, sale, trade or possession of wild animal meat including monkeys
Massachusetts Restricts sale and consumption of exotic or wild animal meat
Nevada Prohibits possession and sale of uninspected wild game mammal meat from animals like monkeys
New Jersey Prohibits anyone from possessing or consuming primate meat
New York City Health code bans sale or possession of non-domesticated animal meat including monkeys
Vermont Prohibits the sale, trade or distribution of primate parts or meat
Virginia Bars import, sale, offer for sale or possession with intent to sell, of non-human primate meat
Washington Prohibits sale, purchase or exchange of prohibited wildlife meat including primates

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