Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Animal rules target discrete areas

By Wu Hung 朱增宏

If the vendors or the customers are irresponsible in how they breed or sell these species, the introduction of foreign species could lead to various problems, including the wreaking of havoc on local biodiversity and other threats to ecological balance.

Animal welfare refers to the idea that, if animals are to be owned and “used,” then at the very least they should be treated humanely. Animal rights, on the other hand, refers to a fundamental opposition to the idea that human beings can “use” animals in any way.

The current incarnation of the Animal Protection Act merely prohibits the slaughter of domesticated animals such as cats and dogs for food. It is neither effective at preventing the mistreatment or abuse of animals nor at the maintenance of animal welfare. It certainly does not approach ensuring animal rights.

The Regulations Governing Commercial Wildlife Raising and Breeding accomplish their intended goal. The legislation is about the commercial use of wildlife, so it is a bit of a stretch to suggest that the draft amendments were made to protect animal rights.

The general direction the Forestry Bureau is taking with these amendments is to be commended. If animals are to be bred and sold, these guidelines would improve animal welfare and, in terms of the supervision of the sector, would also facilitate the establishment of commercial procedures and ethics.

However, more measures must be added, including the prohibition of close breeding, of breeding animals with congenital defects and of interbreeding, to avoid the unnecessary destruction of animals. The regulations must also require operators to provide information showing that animals in their care have separate cages — and the size of the cages — and the maximum number of animals the premises can house.

This information would be used by local authorities during inspections and details can be noted on the relevant licenses to facilitate follow-up checks. To prevent these procedures from becoming mere formalities, there must also be an impartial third party — veterinarians, professionally trained wildlife handlers, or members of non-governmental organizations — present during inspections, to give credibility to the checks. Also, information about the contents and the conclusions of these inspections should be made public, to increase awareness of wildlife conservation and animal welfare.

Local governments need increased powers to require breeders or sellers who do not meet standards and who cannot improve their appraisal results within a stated period to cease trading until they make the necessary improvements.

The creation and amendment of legislation should take into account different opinions and provide a platform for dialogue. If any clauses prove difficult to implement or controversial, the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法) allows for public hearings to clear up points of contention, to seek the optimal consensus or to moot a third piece of legislation. This ensures fairness, openness and a democratic result and is in line with executive principles and is capable of increasing administrative efficiency.

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