Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Protection needed for all animals

By Liao Lin Li-ling 廖林麗玲

The Fang Shang-wen (方尚文) "cat abuse case" has drawn a great deal of online criticism from Taiwan's pet lovers. Unfortunately, the penalty for such crimes is so insignificant that it serves as little deterrent.

Britain passed the world's first law against animal abuse -- Richard Martin's Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle -- in 1822. France followed suit in 1850. These were followed by laws in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland and other European countries.

In 1866, the New York State Legislature passed the first US law against animal cruelty, which surpassed the British law by banning all abuse of both wild and domestic animals. Today, more than 100 countries have such laws.

Some may ask: does a cat deserve the public's attention? But psychological studies show that many serial murderers have abused animals, and that this even became a sort of "training" for their later killings.

The people of Taiwan have traditionally seen animals as inferior to humans. They often do not value the relationship between humans and animals.

People in the West value animal rights, and many believe that humans and animals are equal. Such theories push them to treat animals and humans equally, and also provide a basis for animal welfare organizations.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals launched an initiative for a "Universal Declaration for the Welfare of Animals" in 2000, hoping to provide humanitarian care for animals through the UN, while stressing that the reasons for respecting God-given human rights also apply to animals.

Mahatma Gandhi said: "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Taiwan was the 54th country to have passed a law against animal cruelty. But the Animal Protection Law (動物保護法) enacted on Nov. 6, 1998 stipulates only fines for abusing or killing animals. This is not enough. The law focuses only on whether such cruel treatment was necessary, deliberate or executed with malice. Sentencing for such crimes should focus instead on the degree of cruelty and how it was committed.

The law as it now stands could provide protection for to those committing such crimes, or reasons for law enforcers to neglect their duties. Taiwan should amend the law or there may be insufficient legal basis to implement it.

Liao Lin Li-Ling is the deputy secretary-general of the European Union Study Association-Taiwan.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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