Film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and writer Chu Tien-hsin (朱天心), along with several other animal rights advocates, yesterday launched a campaign to collect 100,000 signatures for a petition calling on the government to create a separate department for animal protection under the planned ministry of agriculture.
“The ministry of agriculture will be officially created next year, and there must be a separate department for animal protection under the ministry,” Chu said. “If animal protection and animal husbandry are put under the same department, it would show that the government is careless and insincere about protecting animals.”
“After all, the objectives are different — one is for slaughtering of animals, and the other is for protection of animals,” Chu added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), who showed up to voice his support for the cause, said that asking a department for animal husbandry to handle animal protection “is like asking the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Co to take charge of a campaign to discourage smoking.”
The Animal Protection Section under the Council of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Industry is currently the highest body in charge of animal protection, with only seven to eight regular staff.
According to the Executive Yuan’s plan, the agency in charge of animal protection will remain under the Department of Animal Industry when the council is upgraded to the ministry of agriculture next year.
Animal rights advocate Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山) said that although the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) has been in place for 12 years, the handling of stray animals has not progressed much.
“In the past 12 years, 1.14 million stray dogs — not counting cats — have been caught and sent to animal shelters, and about 960,000 of them never made it out despite calls from governmental and non-governmental organizations for adoption,” he said. “One of the reasons is the lack of professionals to take charge of government handling of stray animals.”
He said that local cleaning squads who have never been trained in catching animals are usually charged with catching strays. The terrible conditions at animal shelters have also led to a high death rate at these shelters, he said.
Chu, who serves with Hou as co-initiators of the campaign, said the petition aims to show the government public support for the creation of a separate department for animal protection under the future agriculture ministry.
“I know that the budget, the manpower and the resources may be limited once a separate department for animal protection is created; however, the creation of such a department is itself a declaration — a declaration that shows the country’s determination to enhance animal welfare and protection,” Hou said. “There may still be a long way to go, but the creation of a separate department for animal protection is a start.”
Lola Huang (黃芷嫻), a specialist at the Life Conservation Association, said that having a stronger central government-level animal protection department could help draft “a unified plan for animal protection in the country and allocate resources to local branches.”