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  Today Online, 23 Jun 05
Providing hope for animals
3-day conference in Singapore for activists to address animal-related concerns
by Jasmine Yin

INTERNATIONAL and local animal welfare activists have gathered in Singapore for the Asia for Animals Conference (AfAC) 2005.

It is the first time the biennial animal welfare conference is being held here. Hosted by local non-government organisation Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres),

the conference aims to be a platform for participants to network, exchange expertise and develop new strategies to address animal-related concerns.

Some topics the three-day conference will touch on include farm animal welfare, the role of government agencies in animal protection, the management of stray animals and tackling trade in wildlife.

"We are confident that this conference will provide a unique learning opportunity for all involved in animal protection. We are certain the movement in Asia will be strengthened following AfAc," said Acres president Louis Ng.

Attendance for the conference numbers over 200 and comprises representatives from 12 Asian governments, animal welfare organisations and members of the public.

In her keynote speech yesterday, Ms Jill Robinson, chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation, commented: "I believe there has never been more help available to the animals of Asia than there is today."

Mr Grant Pereira, who was representing the international organisation Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Green Volunteers Network — the volunteer arm of the Singapore Environment Council, said it was a "good first move" that Singapore was hosting the conference.

This, he hopes, would create more awareness to stem the smuggling of endangered species from the region via Singapore as the transshipment hub.

Statistics from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the regulatory body that oversees animal welfare in Singapore, show that illegal wildlife trade is on the rise here. Ninety-seven cases were reported last year, an almost three-fold increase from the 34 cases in 2000.

He added that the participation of AVA at the conference is indicative of how ties between the regulatory body and animal welfare groups here have improved over the years. "In the old days, when you held these kind of conferences, you didn't get anyone (from Government agencies)," he said. "When we wanted to talk to them in the past, they would think negatively, 'What do you want to see me for, it must be trouble'. They are more open and ties have become more amicable now."

Radio Singapore International, 23 Jun 05
The state of animal welfare in Singapore

This week in the Singapore Scene, we find out about the state of animal welfare in the country.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society or ACRES is headed by Louis Ng (LN), President and Executive Director. ACRES is also involved in the Asia for Animals Conference 2005 which was held this week in Singapore.

We’ll also speak to Dawn Kua (DK), Director for Operations of the Cat Welfare Society of Singapore.

Both of them will be speaking about the objectives of their societies and also the general level of awareness among Singaporeans in terms of animal welfare or the general level apathy as the case may be.

Also Singaporeans are generally perceived as apathetic when it comes to animals, Dawn has another insight into the situation.

DK: Because we have so little wildlife, I think some people value it more. I went for a walk and saw how excited a girl got about seeing a worm. It was a little sad to me because it shows how little interaction people have with wildlife…….

LN: A lot of people don’t realize that we do have nature areas in Singapore and people need to take that effort to go and view the wildlife and we are getting too isolated from wildlife as Singaporeans don’t have time to go to the nature areas and also because we don’t have anymore farms. In the sense we don’t see the cruelty going on behind some of the things that we do and eat……

Dawn highlights another possible reason why Singaporeans may seem adverse to wildlife and the natural environment.

DK: We seem to have becomes so urban and hygienic that when we think of anything different like any animal and nature to be dirty and there is this perception that everything is dirty and I don’t want to touch it…… A common misconception that hinders the forwarding of animal welfare is the fact that one must love animals in order to believe in the cause.

Louis Ng, the Executive Director of ACRES elaborates.

LN: You don’t really need to love animals to feel that it’s worng to abuse them and that’s our most important point. Even if you see an animal being abused and you don’t’ love dogs, you just have to feel a sense of injustice and do something about it…..

Dawn Kua, the Director of Operations for the Cat Welfare Society and she feels it should go beyond the innate sense of injustice. It should be about simple kind acts to show awareness and respect for wildlife and the environment.

DK: Being kind can just be like not hurting the animal that’s downstairs, not calling the Town Council up every time you’re unhappy there’s a stray around. That in itself is being aware of the welfare of animals. Sometimes it’s not even having to do a positive act in that sense…..

Louis Ng agrees.

LN: Or just speaking out if you see someone abusing an animal. I think the Cat Welfare and even the SPCA always have problems getting people to come forward and speak out if they’ve witnessed abuse and even Action For Singapore Dogs have put forth rewards for people who’ve come forward……

Louis also elaborates on the hotline that ACRES has to combat the illegal pet trade.

LN: We have this hotline for wildlife crimes and we do have a lot of calls and tip offs……… Currently being held in Singapore is Asia For Animals Conference.

LN: It’s actually a biannual conference and it’s a platform for all the Asian animal welfare and conservation groups to come together and share their experiences and learn from what other groups have done………

Louis goes into what happens at conferences and the issues discussed.

LN: We’ll have over 60 presentations over the three days on like disaster relief and recovery, media and communication strategies for NGOs, Zoo check work in Asia, tackling the wildlife trade, farm animal welfare and government agencies roles in animal welfare…….

How pertinent to Singaporeans is a topic like farm animal welfare? A question I put to Luis Ng.

LN: Singaporeans do consume a lot of meat and it has to come from somewhere. Also, at the end of the day, it’s the buyer that decides what kind of welfare farm animals get. For example, if Singaporeans choose to eat free range meat and buy less factory farm meat, supermarkets will note the increased demand of free range meat, import more of that meat and that indicates to farmers that the demand has gone up and business wise, he would have to increase production of free range meat…….

Dawn Kua, the Director of Operations for the Cat Welfare Society goes into the stray animals situation here in Singapore.

DK: We are still tackling a very large stray animal problem in the sense that there are a lot of strays on the street. We are talking to the authorities about brining back the stray cat rehabilitation scheme which was supported by them to allow for free sterilization of cats because we firmly believe that sterilization is the best way….. But we often hear humane stories of how regular Singaporeans embrace these stray cats and bring them into their own homes.

Dawn talks about how this may not be the best thing to do.

DK: While we were really happy that people took cats home, I think everyone has limited space and the laws aren’t helpful because HDB does not allow cats in flats. So if the cat can remain where it is, fed, sterilsed and managed properly and not cause complaints, it may be better for it to stay put.

And that was Dawn Kua, the Director of Operations for the Cat Welfare Society ending this edition of the Singapore Scene.

More about ACRES on their website
Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues

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