Animal rights activists yesterday urged the government to separate the division that is responsible for protecting animals from the department supervising the animal industry and give it more funding and manpower to tackle animal welfare issues.
At present, the animal protection division falls under the the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) Department of Animal Industry, relegating it to a place under the supervision of the livestock industry.
Under the government’s plan to restructure its agencies next year, the COA will become the Ministry of Agriculture, under which there will be a department handling both animal husbandry and animal protection affairs.
However, activists demanded that a dedicated animal welfare department be established. In its petition in front of the COA building yesterday, it held a “memorial service” for animals “killed by the unfair government system.”
According to the activists, approximately 1.14 million stray dogs had been caught and placed in shelters from 1999 to last year, and about 820,000 had been killed. The remaining ones died of illness or from torture, they said.
Writer Chu Tien-hsin (朱天心) said that the design of the new department showed that either the administrative authority was really clueless or it was meant to be a perfunctory system.
“The two [animal husbandry and animal protection] are completely different things, with one considering only human interests and the other aiming to protect an animal’s right to live,” he said. “Placing them under one department is like locking a lion and a rabbit in one cage, with the hope that they can coexist harmoniously.”
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Chu said the department can never fulfill its function because the two major aspects of its operation have conflicting interests.
Chu said that the government should not use the streamlining of its structure as an excuse to not -establish a separate agency to handle animal protection issues.
The protesters said that 90 percent of the budget allocated to the Department of Animal Industry is used to handle animal husbandry affairs, with only 10 percent devoted to protecting animals. The new system will continue to focus on animal husbandry, making it less likely to improve the plight of animals, they added.
In response, Department of Animal Industry director Jack Hsu (許桂森) said that the new system would raise the level of the nation’s animal protection agency to a second-tier organization in the government, the same level as in the UK.
Hsu said that apart from Japan, which places the animal protection agency under its environmental protection department, animal protection issues in most countries are handled by officials who are veterinarians or animal husbandry experts.
VETS KNOW BEST
“Because when it comes to animal welfare or issues related to animal protection, they [officials who are veterinarians or animal husbandry experts] know best,” Hsu said.
Hsu said the new department would have an animal protection division and a pet business division. The animal protection division will ensure the humane treatment of farm animals, as well as those used for experiments or other purposes. The pet business division will focus on relevant issues, such as the pet trade, he added.
Hsu said that the animal husbandry industry accounts for 34 percent of the value of agricultural output, which explains why about NT$400 million (US$13.8 million) is spent on it annually.