19 April, 2024


Need For Immediate Enactment Of The Animal Welfare Bill

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

Avanthi Jayasuriya

Last year witnessed an escalation in the incidents of animal cruelty in Sri Lanka, ranging from the culling of strays and the culling of elephants. While the cruelty prevails, there remains a marked lacuna in terms of the laws and regulations that govern issues related to animal welfare in the country, causing the perpetrators to go unpunished and victims to be left without justice. Moving forward in 2018, it is imperative and timely to reflect on the current status of the long overdue Animal Welfare Bill.

Existing legislation relating to animal welfare

In Sri Lanka, the legislature on animal welfare is determined by the framework provided under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907. The Ordinance was last amended in 1955 and has since seen no changes. Amongst the many shortcomings of the outdated legislation, the definition of the term “animal” can be highlighted as limited and narrow. The 1907 Ordinance applies only to a domestic or a captured animal which includes any bird, fish, or reptile in captivity. Regardless of the increase in urban wildlife at present, the term has not extended its reach to incorporate urban wildlife within its parameters or punishment to offenders. It further excludes animals which are not domesticated or caged. This narrow perspective allows for very limited species of animals to be protected.

The concept of duty of care is another major deficiency in the Ordinance of 1907.  The concept refers  to responsible ownership of pets by their owners; the lack of which has drastic implications on the welfare of animals. Therefore, the inclusion of the concept is important in ensuring that pet owners will not abandon animals, and will act responsibly towards them by providing uninterrupted basic care. Moreover, the violation of such conduct would lead to legal prosecution and would lessen incidents of abuse at the hands of pet owners.

Status of draft Animal Welfare Bill

The need for a new legal framework to govern the issues related to animal welfare in the country was noted by many civil society organizations and as a result the new animal welfare bill was drafted in 2006 by the Law Commission, with the support of the interested parties. Almost a decade in the making, the draft bill was open for public comments under the Ministry of Rural Economic Affairs in 2015. Following the proposed changes received by the public consultation, the Cabinet approval for the Bill was received on January 13, 2016, after which the Bill was passed to the legal draftsman for the changes to be incorporated into it and for it to be drafted with the changes included. Yet, it has been over a year since the passing of the Animal Welfare Bill and the time for enactment has never been more urgent.

Recent measures taken to address animal welfare

The National Budget for 2018 had some considerations for animals and their welfare including the allocation of Rs. 75 Billion for the conversion of the zoo to an open zoo concept where the animals will no longer be caged, but be able to move around with more freedom as per international best practices. The Budget proposals also contained the restructuring of the Pinnawela elephant orphanage to be ‘Born Free-Chain Free’, initiating mahout training programmes. While these initiatives are commendable, ensuring animal welfare in the long run will fall short without a holistic legislative framework such as the Animal Welfare Bill in place which mandates the rules and regulations determining the welfare of animals.

Why the enactment of the animal welfare bill needs to be accelerated

In the past year, stories of extermination of stray cats and dogs within public and private premises and the culling of tuskers, cruelty towards captive elephants have become commonplace occurrences. These horrific acts of cruelty leave no doubt that it is time for more urgent and concrete action on animal welfare in the country.

It is high time that we changed these outdated laws and made sure that the long- overdue Animal Welfare Bill is passed for efficient action against cruelty to animals, where appropriate punitive action can be taken against offenders and issues relating to urban wildlife and captive animals can be solved in a comprehensive manner. In conclusion, it is pivotal that the Bill should be passed for enactment at the earliest possible, in order to provide for an effective and efficient legal framework to address cruelty towards animals in Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    What about right to live for Aninals ?, So called food animals, do they have rights to live ?.
    Why animal rights groups are silent when tuskers were killed. ?

    It looks you are represnting or writing for special interest religious groups.

    Do you know how to wear a OSARI ?

    I think you know only Jis Desh me ganga behethi hei.

  • 0

    ‘Food animals’ and tuskers also have the right to live, but a start has to be made somewhere. If a start is not made to improve and enforce legislation, nothing will be done.

  • 1

    Elephants have been associated with temples from time immemorial . Its a pity that ‘special interest’ groups are using the Thera’s tragic death to further their ultimate goal of prohibiting elephants being used in Buddhist pageants citing cruelty to animals.

  • 3

    Animal sacrifice at Hindu temples is banned in SL. One may say that this was an ancient practice but the ban is a progressive move – God cannot be bribed!
    Avanthi Jayasuriya is campaigning against the practice of keeping animals in captivity. We must NOT show the Brigadier Priyanthakara Fernando gesticulation!

  • 3

    No offense, I respect her feeling for animals.

    These young women of Sri Lanka are showing some sort of insane behavior these days. For animal rights, Muslim women rights or be it, liquor rights, within minutes they pop up with an online post. And they don’t really care if they know the subject they talk about, or whether it is the right time they need to talk about or the subject itself is worth it.

    And why don’t we see these young women coming up with their opinion on some of the serious matters happening in the country? Are they selfish to confine themselves within the selected subjects? Or is it their own inferiority that some matters are too dangerous and serious, so men should handle them? Or is it all about just bragging? It all looks like the fizz making hissing in a Coke bottle.

    Funnier is they all sleep or pretend unaware of what is happening until a news comes up to make bigger noise out of it.

    • 4

      So isharath, you think that Muslim women activism over human rights violations are ‘insane’!
      Your hissing has postmark ‘Angoda Mental hospital Post Office’.

      • 2

        K. Pillai, love the way you’re hissing right now. Muslim women activism is a fish trying to climb a tree. You might hiss out again for this, but this is the fact so far having spent decades on it without moving an inch – thank me for calling it insane.

        • 0

          We support Muslim women rights and activism. But a failing project without change in strategy or plan B for decades shows some stupidity and waste of time and resources.

          Muslim men are divided in their views:

          1: Some Muslim men are against MMDA reforms
          2: Some Muslim men support reforms
          3: Some don’t care at all
          4: Some like reforms but don’t accept the way Muslim women approach it.

  • 3

    Dear Avanthi,

    I’m a poor man, and it was for the first time in my life that I had an opportunity last week to visit the Uda Walawe National Park – on Wednesday, the 24th Jan. 2018. That was thanks to the fact that a guy named Martin Duckworth with whom I had worked (and acted in a couple of Shakespeare plays) in 1969 and 1970 was revisiting Sri Lanka, together with his Swedish wife, Anne.

    Wild Life has become a rich man’s hobby – well it always was. We stated at Mastodon – good place; don’t know how much it cost. The three hour jeep ride cost Rs 5,000/= , and Martin added a Rs 1,000/= tip to the driver. The previous evening we had watched while the elephant calves (some were pretty big!) were fed milk. Lots of school children paid only Rs 5/=, Rs 20/= had to be paid for me and for our driver/guide. The two whites had to pay Rs 500/=; the same as they had to pay for bathing in the Suriyawewa Hot Springs. Maduwanwela Walauwwa is in Suriyakanda. Nothing is charged there, but unfortunately we got yjere exactly at closing time – 4.30 pm – so we couldn’t see the inside. No complaints from us. It’s government servants who are now in charge – and they should NOT have made any exception just because two of the party were white.

    On the other hand, the custodians were very nice and polite, and did explain something. From there we went to Waralla. Now where’s that?

    This has been a hasty comment. Will come back to it and insert a few on topic observations. Sorry if I’ve spoilt your “responses”. I greatly admire you for your commitment.

    But how should we vote tomorrow?

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