The Otara Foundation has welcomed the approval of the Animal Welfare Bill by the Cabinet of Ministers as a step in the right direction and pledged to continue its advocacy in order to ensure the enactment of the Bill as law.
The Foundation said it thanks the President, Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Economic Affairs for their political will in supporting the Bill and the relevant government officials for their consideration and assistance in getting the Animal Welfare Bill thus far. The Foundation said it hopes for their continued assistance in getting the Bill passed and implemented expeditiously.
The Foundation also commended the Law Commission of Sri Lanka for preparing the Bill and recommending it to the Government in 2006. The Foundation extended its thanks to the long serving advocates of the appeal who have been striving for this change, including MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero, who presented the Bill in Parliament in 2010 as a Private Member’s Bill.
The Otara Foundation applauded the Petitioners in the animal welfare writ application, who since 2012, consistently lobbied for its enactment, as well as the 28,000 people that endorsed its appeal for the passage of the Bill. Their commitment and dedication towards the approval of the Bill has been central to its success thus far. The Foundation also made mention of the international organisations that supported the cause such as Animal Nepal, PETA Asia and Fondation Brigitte Bardot.
The Foundation noted that the draft legislation has a long process to follow to become law. “We urge compassionate citizens of Sri Lanka to continue to follow the progress of the Bill and to continue to support our efforts to bring about change,” the Foundation said in a statement. “The Bill has passed step one of a multi-step process and therefore has a long way to go before it is implemented.”
The Animal Welfare Bill is proposed in place of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907, which is insufficient when dealing with the types of cruelty animals face today. While many countries in the West have established effective animal welfare legislation, many countries in Asia such as India, Singapore and Malaysia have also updated and strengthened their animal welfare legislation. In comparison, Sri Lanka is lagging far behind with regard to animal cruelty despite the country’s heritage of compassion.
On 4 October 2015, the Otara Foundation launched a signature campaign to mark World Animal Day, urging the Government of Sri Lanka to pass the proposed Animal Welfare Bill. The appeal has to date received over 28,000 signatures and has garnered much public support. While 90% of signatures are from Sri Lanka there is also much support for the Bill overseas.
“Signatories to the appeal include a large cross section of the public, from many areas ranging from Colombo to remote areas such as Padiyatalawa and Ampara. I thank everyone who was a part of pushing the Bill thus far and encourage more people to join and support the much needed implementation of the Animal Welfare Bill. The support from private corporates and government institutions was also admirable,” said Otara Gunewardene, CEO of the Foundation.
The objective of the Bill is to strengthen the law on the prevention of cruelty towards animals and secure the welfare of all animals, by clearly defining offences and introducing stringent penalties, while also establishing a National Animal Welfare Authority with comprehensive powers to address all cruelty issues.
The Bill also widens the definition of ‘animal’ to “any living being other than a human-being” as the current law applies only to animals in captivity or domestic animals, leaving particularly important sectors such as wildlife without the protection required. Welfare issues related to animals in pet shops, animal experimentation, animal performance and the live transport of animals, currently not included in Sri Lankan legislation, are also included in the new Animal Welfare Bill.