Animal rights activists yesterday called on the government to ensure that venues that host circus-type animal performances or are suspected of engaging in animal cruelty cannot be certified as adequate sites for environmental education.
Showing a video clip of children clapping while watching pigs jump through hoops on fire, gaudily clad monkeys juggling, riding bicycles, standing on their heads and tightrope walking, the activists said such animal shows were performed in amusement parks across the nation.
Some of these performances label themselves “outdoor ecological education sites” suitable for children so as to attract school field trips, said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), who organized the press conference with academics and the Life Conservationist Association.
Participants said that respect for animal rights should be incorporated into the guidelines for certifying environmental education sites.
The recently enacted Environmental Education Act (環境教育法) stipulates that all civil servants and students are required to take at least four hours of certified environmental education each year.
Participants also said the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) explicitly prohibits any unnecessary or malicious harassment, cruelty or harming of animals.
Chen Chien-Chih (陳建志), an associate professor at Taipei Municipal University of Education’s Graduate School and Center of Environmental Education, said students needed to learn how to interact with wild animals rather than seeing them perform.
Asked to comment on mounting criticism of the act, Yeh Jiunn-Horng (葉俊宏), director-general of the Department of Comprehensive Planning at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), said such reaction was premature.
“The act has only been in force for a month and already it’s being criticized,” Yeh said, adding that the EPA would deny certification to sites that are proven to have engaged in animal cruelty or hosted such performances.
After saying that none of the sites in which the animals were seen performing in the video were certified by the EPA, Yeh said the agency had a committee of specialists to evaluate sites that apply for certification.
Regulations governing the certification and management of environmental education facilities and sites were made public along with the act early last month, Yeh said.
Chang Tzu-chau (張子超), Executive Secretary of the Environmental Protection Division at the Ministry of Education, said schools would be supervised to ensure they do not take students to see animals perform.
Education on the values that buttress opposition to animal cruelty would be emphasized, Chang said.
“If the training process is done cruelly, the owners of a facility can be fined between NT$15,000 and NT$75,000,” said Hsu Kuei-sen (許桂森), director of the Animal Industry Department at the Council of Agriculture. “However, it is currently difficult to determine whether an animal performance constitutes animal cruelty.”