Saturday, 23 June 2012

Animal Welfare Bill


"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress 
can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated."


Last Tuesday, I had the privilege to attend a forum organised by the DVS on the proposed Animal Welfare Bill (please participate in the survey).
So while I congratulate the DVS for organizing this very healthy development, I have to apologize if I'm being cynical (after all the things we have seen in the recent past)- my concern was if was simply a talk-shop organized as a public relations exercise. Nevertheless- I attended, hoping for the best possible outcome.

The event began with the explanation of the draft of proposed bill by Dr. Quaza, after which the Q & A session started.
Truth be told, much of the concerns were addressed by the proposed bill- including the issue of abandonment, strays management, proper guidelines on pet/animal ownership, euthanasia, surgical mutilation of animals, slaughter, health etc.

Councillor Anthony from MBPJ (and also President of Pet Positive) queried if the enforcement agencies would be subject prosecution should they themselves violate the laws on animal cruelty. The reply seemed a little ambiguous ("they are all with the government"- so how?) although they affirmed that enforcers are definitely bound by the same laws.
IMO, a reply saying that an "ombudsman" can be appointed to oversee operations- would have been more constructive. After all, many contracted "dog-catchers" aren't exactly the sharpest minds around, nor are many of the local pounds 5-star Dog Hotels.

One another point- The proposed bill suggests that the animal has the right to shelter, food etc- but we have situations wherein dogs are abandoned by owners (creating strays) because certain developments forbid dog ownership based on the misinterpration of Pt II (d) of the Third Schedule of the "Strata Titles Act" (STA), which states that 

Strangely, this above law seems to be applied only to dogs (there seems to be no issue with other straying animals, even if they scratched your cars, stole food from your kitchen, carried diseases or even pissed/ poo-ed in your house). I do not understand how "health authorities" (or the DVS) do not see straying cats which are known vectors, as a nuisance or health menace- and so not have licencing laws or guidelines for them.

Many councils in urban areas these days have chosen to have a "lazy" interpretation of the above prohibition (by conveniently neglecting the second half of the sentence- in bold above), and denying licences to dogs  in these communities- even if they weren't a nuisance to the neighbours in any way.
Some "enforcers" have even dragged animals away from their owners into pounds, and subjected them to the cruel fate of spending time in the very dirty/unhealthy local pounds. This has led to abandonment of dogs- which in turn compounds the problem of strays (which this law incidentally wants to address), which in turn becomes a social/health problem.
Do enforcers have a right to take a dog away from its master- even if the master complies with all the guidelines? I think not.
How does this law address such violations?

This is in fact, also partly what Councillor Anthony has queried of the Animal Welfare Bill.

We do know that people have dogs which are part of their family, disabled have service dogs, and many have dogs just as watchdogs. Many dogs are single master animals and are attached to their master/family for life. Just as man has the right to own an animal- dogs (in this case) in turn become attached their owners as their master. 

Aren't these animals entitled to have their master (wherever they may live) if the master complies with the guidelines? To deprive these animals of their master based on a "lazy" interpretation of the law, in my POV amounts to cruelty.

Gandhi once said, 

"The more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is 
to protection by man from the cruelty of man."

Therefore, this proposed "Animal Welfare Bill" not only should one to cover the proper conduct of man in owning/handling animals- but should also be able to educate and help man understand the animals he owns.
If it fails to protect the animal's right to be owned by its master- the law fails in this very fundamental role to protect the animal from the shortcomings of glib-minded humans.
I certainly hope the DVS would look into this matter seriously.

Lastly- I would like to once again congratulate the DVS for an excellent job at organizing the very constructive forum, to get feedback from the public. 
More such public consultations should be held from all departments/ministries before tabling of Bills in Parliament.
It is only in such a manner can we be called a progressive and participatory democracy.

The Custodians of ... "Our" Culture.

“It is not necessarily (our) culture; you have to look at the situation.
“What is important is that enough access to information,” 
~ Najib

It probably started with back when Mahathir was "the man" of Bolehsia. He regularly bandied about what he called "eastern values" which he defined in his authoritarian style of government. By his standards, the things he did were all, "Our Culture", and they were "noble values" which we had to abide by, whether we liked it or not. 

Of late, I have somehow been hearing it quite a bit- "... it is not in our culture to bla bla bla" (..... and here I was thinking all the while that "culture" is something which is fluid- not static as the politicians seem to think it is- and evolved perpetually with time due to various factors such as environment/ influences/ economy/ education). Every other person seems to know what is and isn't supposed to be - "OUR" culture.
Maybe it is a medical condition called "The Custodian Syndrome"- maybe there's a virus in the air or something .... I wouldn't know. Maybe they want to engineer a "new culture" of unthinking dullards in Malaysia (which they incidentally, have partially achieved with their "NEP" policies since Mahathir's time).

You get them in many different circles- from the man on the street, to the religious bigots, the moral police, the evangelists, the old folks, teachers, to the political elite (don't forget Mr. Yorais, himself).
And I wonder- just when did these people become the experts of "our culture". The word "OUR" here, is I believe, quite dangerous- because it lumps all of us together into one big group. It is not like all of us believe and practice the same things.

So, just what gives these "custodians of culture" the right to claim or determine what is, and what isn't "our culture".
Just what exactly are the determinants of "our" culture.
Can anybody define this so-called "our" culture on a national scale?
So once again- politicians have staked their claim to being the experts and "defenders" of "OUR Culture".

Now I'm beginning to wonder what exactly IS "our culture" ...
banning books/concerts/people/rallies/skirts?
Unquestioning loyalty/allegience to the buffoons who are apparently our political elite? Indoctrination of minors? The siege-mentality? 
Persecution of minorities? Racism? Religious Bigotry?
"Tongkat Ali"? Gender segregation?
Obsession with sex or polygamy or "skirts & what lies beneath"? 
Thuggery? A Police State? Fear? Fascism?
"Kugan-ising" suspects in custody? Bombing Mongolians?
Crony Capitalism? Corruption? Financial Scandals?
A lying media? Censorship? 
Having a screwed up EC?
**The quote (in bold at the top) was a comment by Najib when asked about having a public debate with Anwar.

Below is an article on The Malaysian Insider on the same topic:-

What is Malaysian culture? — Othman Wahab

June 22, 2012
JUNE 22 — Prime Minister Najib Razak says that there is no need for a debate with Anwar Ibrahim because debates are not part of the Malaysian culture. He is right, of course.
The following are part and parcel of Malaysian fabric and culture, and should be emulated by all citizens.
1) Plundering the country’s wealth through inflated contracts, toll concessions and one-sided privatisations deals.
2) Allowing Umno politicians and their children sweetheart deals and unfettered access to public funds through grants and loans.
3) Selling state secrets to foreign arms companies, earning huge kickbacks in commission and then pretending that nothing is amiss.
4) Unleashing the power of the police on ordinary Malaysians, firing nearly 1,000 tear gas canisters at taxpayers’ expense, beating up journalists, and then asserting that maximum restraint was used.
5) Living beyond our means. Ministers have done this for years, living way beyond their pay scale and, now, the government is encouraging Malaysians to do so. How? By spending and spending like there is no tomorrow. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is way past the 55 per cent threshold.
6) It is part of our daily culture for women to be robbed and live in fear of snatch thieves, for crime to alter the way of life, and then have some bean counter in Pemandu to roll out some discredited crime statistic. Malaysians should just go with the flow and accept whatever Putrajaya says. After all, Idris Jala did turn around Malaysia Airlines.
7) Having to tolerate Liow Tiong Lai, M. Kayveas, Khaled Nordin, and Muhyiddin Yassin, and accept them as leaders while at the same time witnessing their displays of ineptitude.
8) Stomaching the tales spun by Utusan Malaysia, NST, TV3, the Star and other crooked media. Yes, it is part of Malaysian culture for mainstream journalists to write fiction.
* Othman Wahab reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider