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Downton Abbey's Peter Egan talks importance of animal conservation - and shares hopes for third film

The actor is a longtime animal lover and avid activist

Peter Egan in Downton Abbey
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Peter Egan has been on our screens for over 50 years, and is known to many thanks to his illustrious acting career. But alongside his TV and film work, Peter has, for the past two decades, established his status as a dedicated animal rights activist. 

The actor's activism work began when he was first made aware of the cruelty imposed on companion animals in the UK, as well as the number of animals abandoned and organised dog fights, "which happen virtually every day in our society", according to the Downton Abbey star. Peter soon expanded his focus to animals across the planet and more recently became involved with the work of Wild Futures, a UK primate welfare and conservation charity.

This year, HELLO! is partnering with the Big Give as it launches what it hopes will be its biggest-ever Christmas fundraiser, and as part of the initiative, Peter caught up with HELLO! for an exclusive chat about why Wild Futures needs your help now more than ever, and for Downton Abbey fans, also shared his hopes for a third film. 

WATCH: Alan Carr, Kate Humble and many more stars join forces with Big Give

On how he became involved with the charity, Peter explained that a good friend named Angela Humphery, who has been fundraising and campaigning for over five decades, alerted him to the crisis Wild Futures is facing thanks to the pressures imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The charity's Monkey Sanctuary, based in Cornwall, is especially at risk due to the lasting effects of Covid-19 and the continued cost of living crisis. 

On the important work carried out by the sanctuary, Peter explained: "The Sanctuary provides a home for life for primates rescued from the UK pet trade. Understanding the needs of a social species and recognition that all primates have individual needs, especially to adapt to captivity, means that the Sanctuary has also been a world leader in innovating enclosure design, linking areas to enable fission/fusion behaviour as well as providing a stimulating environment as the primate groups move from one set of enclosures to another, changing territory and neighbours."

Peter Egan
Peter Egan is a longtime animal lover

The actor explained that the rescued monkeys, who often suffer from pathological behaviours, diabetes and autoimmune diseases as a result of their lives in the primate pet trade, receive specialist care from the sanctuary's experienced team. 

He continued: "It is vitally important that the charity does not just provide sanctuary, metaphorically mopping up the mess caused by the trade, but that the work is done to turn off the tap and end the trade," adding that Wild Futures has been involved in changes to government legislation where animal welfare is concerned, contributing to the Animal Welfare Act, 2006 and the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-human Primates, 2010.

Peter Egan
Peter has been an activist for over 20 years

HELLO! Charity Appeal: The Big Give Christmas Challenge

The Christmas Challenge

HELLO! is joining forces with the UK’s biggest match funding organisation as it launches its week-long Christmas campaign from 28 November to 5 December, to raise £30 million for good causes! We have partnered with Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, which matches charity donations made through its platform pound for pound, doubling the amount raised. 

Backed by a host of famous names, and with a pot of £15 million in matched funds available from philanthropists, foundations and companies, Big Give is supporting more than 1,000 charities and hopes this year’s Christmas campaign will be its most successful yet. DONATE HERE

Expanding on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the charity and its work, Peter said: "The charity has taken a lot of hits in recent times. The consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic not only posed a health risk to staff and monkey residents, but also created huge financial pressures on the charity."

Meanwhile, the actor explained that the cost-of-living crisis has led to the charity's monthly outgoings increasing to around £55,000 to cover annual vet, food and healthcare bills, as well as electric and heating costs. "It is the priority of the Wild Futures team that the charity is sustainable in the long term with focus on rebuilding reserves whilst protecting the monkeys that continue to need food, expert care, housing, heating and veterinary and medical care," he said.  

Peter Egan© Johnny Armstead/Shutterstock
Peter is known for his activism work

MORE: I raised over £3,500 for charity and found being kind life-affirming – and infectious

While Peter has clearly been busy with his charity work, he still finds time for his acting career, and is set to star in Channel 4's upcoming comedy-drama series, TrueLove

As for whether we can expect to see the star reprise his role as the Marquess of Flintshire, aka Shrimpie, in a third Downton Abbey film, Peter said: "I don't know about a Downton movie. I hope there is one because it is a great series."

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