Persevering for animal rights
January 3, 2012
Just like with most
things, perseverance is the key to creating more awareness and having more
consideration that animals have rights too, says an activist.
one is asked about animal rights in Malaysia, the response would either be
incredulity, puzzlement, cynicism or maybe even all three for good measure.
Why? Because animal rights in Malaysia has been, for the best part of its
existence, not adhered to nor practiced, with the exception of when it
benefits certain quarters.
So when Agriculture and Agro-based
Industry Deputy Minister Chua Tee Yong met with the representatives of four
animal welfare organisations in the middle of December 2011, the light at
the end of the tunnel seemed a little brighter.
present at this meeting were Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB), Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), PAWS Animal Welfare Society
Malaysia and Save a Stray (SAS), who collectively highlighted challenges
faced in advocating animal welfare here.
The meeting came about
after Chua read about MDDB's concern pertaining to the sale of cats and dogs
at pet stores. In a letter to the ministry, the animal advocacy body asked
that the authorities ban the sale of companion pets at pet shops because
this would result in the increase in the number of illegal breeders.
Wani Muthiah, founder of MDDB is heartened at the meeting, saying that
the ministry has been very responsive to the issues highlighted. She
explained that pedigree pets can be purchased, but only through certified
and responsible breeders and not from backyard breeders who do not pay
emphasis on the quality of the sired animal.
During the meeting,
Chua acknowledged the fact that the current situation has allowed some
unscrupulous people to make money.
He said, "The government would
look into the various issues pertaining to the welfare of companion animals
such as cats and dogs. I would like to stress that the government would also
look at how to progress toward inculcating animal welfare civic mindedness."
Chua added that an Animal Welfare Council has been formed and the
ministry was engaging with all stakeholders involved. The council is chaired
by minister Noh Omar.
Raking in 600% profit
Wani, pet stores make most of their money from the sale of pet accessories
and food. Some even going as far so as to rake in a 600% profit for each
item sold. An example of this is the dog collar which pet stores purchase
for RM3 only, to sell it for RM14. The same is true for many of the other
items such as toys and other recreational items for pets.
Economically thriving pet stores aside, to the question of how far has
Malaysia come in terms of animal rights, she said that over the last year or
so, there has been more prominence given to the cause.
is concerned, we're not just about rescuing dogs. We do a lot of advocacy
work and bring a journalist myself, I get to see how laws are made and
passed. I would really like to see Malaysians develop more appreciation for
dogs and maybe in time with the work that we do, change mindsets and bring
about better protection laws for these animals," she said.
opines that there should be jail terms imposed as well for animal cruelty
cases. She shared that a decade ago in Ireland, there was the case of a
council worker who was jailed for abusing some dogs left under his watch.
In the 1950s, Wani added, Malaysia imposed a RM200 fine for animal
abuse cases. "This was a lot of money back then and the same fine in today's
ringgit rate should be considered and implemented. But I am not holding my
breath for that to happen any time soon. Even the domestic violence act took
nine years to be passed," she added sardonically.
As to her hopes
for MDDB in 2012, Wani shared that she would like to see the trap, neuter
and release option for stray dogs be given a trial in selected areas.
"From here, we would be able to see clearer how efficient this system is
otherwise we're looking at a bigger boom in the stray population. Putting
them in dog pounds and then euthanizing them is not a particularly great
solution. Dog catching has become such a big business. There was a month in
2010 when the Sepang Municipal Council caught 20,000 dogs. Dog-catchers are
paid RM45 per dog. It's very stark when you look at numbers, dollars and
cents and wonder what happened to ethics along the way."
Wani and the core group of 10 volunteers at MDDB are hopeful that the
meeting with the ministry is a sign of better things to come for animals in
2012 and beyond.
"The fact that we are being heard is a good place
to start on building a relationship with the relevant ministries and
government officials. Just like with most things, perseverance is the key to
creating more awareness and having more consideration that animals have