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South African Animal Organisations Unite
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: South African Animal Organisations Unite and Call for Better Animal Protection Legislation and Enforcement

PRESS RELEASE: 17 August 2009

SOUTH AFRICAN ANIMAL ORGANISATIONS UNITE AND CALL FOR BETTER ANIMAL PROTECTION LEGISLATION AND ENFORCEMENT

"Violence begets violence", delegates were told at the " South African Law Review Consultation Workshop" held at the Chalsty Conference Centre, Law School, at the University of the Witwatersrand on 13 August 2009.

Addressing an historic gathering of close on one hundred animal protectionists from across South Africa, Cora Bailey, founder of Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW), explained how the link between violence to animals and violence to fellow human beings were interlinked. She said that on numerous occasions when her organization was called in to rescue animals who had been violently abused in the disadvantaged communities served by CLAW, she found that the abusers, often children as young as four years old, had been directly exposed to horrific incidents of human-on-human violence in the communities where they lived, even within their own family home.

Speaking on the same subject, human-animal interaction specialist, Dr Magdie Van Heerden explained that throughout the world there was recorded evidence of a definite link between violence to animals and violence to people, and that the situation in South Africa was no different.

Bailey and Van Heerden were two of a number of speakers presenting papers at the workshop which was organized by Animal Rights Africa (ARA) for the purpose of initiating a transparent public process of South African animal protection legislation review.

ARA conference organizer, Michele Pickover, said that this was the first time in South Africa that animal protectionists ranging from small, single issue animal care groups to large, nationally active animal rights and animal welfare organizations had come together for a common purpose. " We were united in our common goal to work towards social and legislative reform that will see animals treated with the respect they deserve and are entitled to. A key component in this process is the enactment of legislation that will provide all animals with meaningful protection against abuse and exploitation."

Pickover said that, " Prior to the workshop ARA sent out a questionnaire to hundreds of individuals and organizations in South Africa, all of whom have an interest in the welfare of animals. We wanted to know what they thought of existing animal protection legislation, how it affected their work for animals, and what they would want a revised package of South African animal protection legislation to look like. We received over 70 organisational sponsors and with only one exception they all expressed serious dissatisfaction with the existing legislation as well as the implementation and enforcement thereof."

Dr David Bilchitz, Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law, spoke on the " Conceptual foundations of statutes protecting animals and the shift required by the Constitution" . He highlighted the contradictions in existing South African animal protection legislation and said that it was drafted during the Verwoerdian era and does not reflect the more enlightened attitude that post-apartheid South Africans have regarding animals. He suggested that there should be a complete redrafting of animal protection legislation but warned that this should take into account that such proposed legislation would not see the light of day if it was too radical.

Public and Development Management Consultant, Dugan Fraser, advised the workshop on " strategic and other issues to consider when seeking to achieve law reform in South Africa" .

International perspective was added to the workshop by Mariann Sullivan of the American Bar Association, Animal Law Committee, whose presentation was titled, " The USA Experience: Lessons learnt" .

Lawyers from Johannesburg- based Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys did an enormous amount of research in putting together a presentation titled, " International Comparisons and Best Practices" which clearly showed that whilst not having the worst animal protection legislation in the world, South Africa certainly does not compare with the best!

Environmental legal expert, Cormac Cullinan, explored the links between environmental legislation and animal welfare, showing that the former in no way protects individual animals for their inherent value, but merely affords them protection relative to their value in the bigger environmental and poorly defined biodiversity context.

"The workshop was a huge success and a major step towards legislative reform that will see animal rights become an ever growing consideration in all areas of human-animal interactions and relationships," said Pickover. " A task team was appointed to formulate a draft strategy for ongoing action in order to ensure that the enthusiasm, energy and vision expressed during the workshop by all delegates and speakers manifests in tangible benefits for animals through the drafting, implementation and enforcement of effective and ethically-based animal protection legislation in South Africa."

All papers presented at the workshop, together with extracts of ensuing discussions, will be posted on the ARA website, www.animalrightsafr ica.org . Any queries and/or comments can be directed to info@animarightsafrica.org 

ARA Mobile Contacts: Michele Pickover 082 253 2124 Steve Smit 082 659 4711

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