The 8th consultation on the Animal Welfare Bill took place with a wide sectoral representation from the government as well as civil society actors which included parliamentary members, representatives of various NGOs and youth delegations, lawyers, journalists and animal welfare advocators. Parliamentary member, Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero graced the occasion to address the furthering of the Bill on Animal Welfare.
In his address, Ven. Rathana Thero commented on the historical link between Buddhism and the advocation of animal welfare, as is clearly outlined in the first of the five precepts of Buddhist philosophy. Accordingly, he observed that the Animal Welfare Coalition has strived to abolish cruelty against animals and to establish responsibility in terms of humane forms of slaughtering animals. Furthermore, the Venerable Rathana Thero noted the importance of selecting the most suitable ministry to further the cause of animal welfare. Commenting on the symbiotic relationship between animals and humans as integral components of the environment, the thero raised the need to include new amendments with regard to animal husbandry and the use of agro chemicals in agricultural activities, focusing on the adverse impact on fish and reptiles. In line with the Animal Welfare Coalition’s mission to expedite the passing of the parliamentary Bill on Animal Welfare, Ven. Rathana thero stressed on the imperative need to get the Bill passed this year and agreed to accompany the members of the Coalition to discussions with the President.
The consultation was effective in underlining the crux of the problem as being the lack of an authoritative body to make legislative decisions pertaining to animal welfare in Sri Lanka. Speaking on this issue, Dr. Sam Daniels, who held the office of additional secretary to the Ministry of Social Services, Welfare and Lifestock Development, outlined the historical progression of the Animal Rights Bill thus far and highlighted the gaps in the prevalent laws and regulations on Animal Welfare in the constitution of Sri Lanka.
Therein, the establishment of a legislative authority through the Animal Welfare Bill was highlighted as the focal point of immediate future action. Suggestions were made to include the representation of a wide spectrum of animal welfare advocators in the authoritative body, including representations from the civil society in addition to government representatives. Several speakers including Ven. Rathana thero, reiterated the need to reformulate and amend the existing laws in concurrence with the evolution of international laws and regulations, standards on animal husbandry- particularly the standards adopted by the World Organization for Animal Heath (OIE), and the general welfare of animals.
In effect, the need for a holistic definition of pivotal terms such as “animal”, “cruelty” as well as the need for the modification of the legislation as per the evolving trends of scientific and technological advancement and the changing attitudes towards animal experimentation were identified as imporationt points to be addressed in the drafting of the Bill. Sri Lanka’s role as a member of the OIE was taken as a point of discussion which would benefit from the establishment of the local legislative authority on Animal Welfare in facilitating the integration of feedback to the OIE standards in order to create uniformity in the standards and regulatory measures.
The consultation proceeded to briefly outline the measures to be taken following the establishment of the legislation on Animal Welfare. In accordance, attention would be given to the framework for the delegation of duties and responsibilities in the implementation of the laws and regulations. To this end, the responsibility of the law enforcement organisations was emphasised. Dissemination of awareness and training of the officials in the law enforcement system including legal prosecutors, magistrates, appellate court judges etc, to be well versed in the laws and regulations pertaining to animal welfare was suggested as one of the responsibilities of the legislative authority established vis-à-vis the Bill.
The necessity of creating public awareness on the Animal Welfare Bill was noted as one of the crucial issues to be focused on in the immediate plan of action. Wherein, the involvement of the media, social media and public engagement through youth delegations such as University based associations and Rotaract clubs was suggested as viable methods of creating awareness and influencing Parliamentary activity. Incident based propaganda was suggested as one of the many forms of creating awareness in the hopes of expediting the passing of the parliamentary Bill.
In the capacity of representation present at the 8th consultation meeting of the AWC, the various members from civil society institutions and associations, including the Blue Paw Trust, the Animal Welfare Protection Association (AWPA) as well as individuals vested in the cause expressed their readiness to partner with the cause of expediting the process passing the Animal Welfare Bill and creating a positive impact towards the general welfare of animals.