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Euthanasia ban needs to be re-evaluated: minister

2020-02-27Taipei Times  English News
Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung, front row left, attends the founding news conference of an alliance to promote animal welfare legislation in Taipei yesterday.Feb 27, 2020/Photo courtesy of CNA
Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung, front row left, attends the founding news conference of an alliance to promote animal welfare legislation in Taipei yesterday.Feb 27, 2020/Photo courtesy of CNA

A ban on euthanizing healthy stray animals, which has been in place for three years, needs to be re-evaluated to see whether it really improves animal welfare, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung said yesterday.

Chen made the remarks during a news conference in Taipei held by several animal rights groups, who have established an alliance to urge lawmakers to create more animal protection legislation.

The alliance called for enshrining animal protection in the Constitution and legalizing a compensation mechanism for people whose animals — not necessarily pets — are hurt by others.

It called for humanitarian rescue of animals, as well as the establishment of an animal protection police, zoological data-sharing and language promoting vegetarian diets.

The alliance also urged the government to create a system to foster veterinarians for laboratory animals, and devise animal-friendly methods to raise farm animals and aquaculture products.

As the new legislative session began last week, the groups hope that newly elected lawmakers would promote legislation covering the issues and boost communication with the public, Taiwan Animal Protection Monitor Network secretary-general Ho Tsung-hsun  said.

Animal protection should be addressed with regard to different categories of animals, such as pets, wild animals and economic animals, Chen said.

For example, the government in February 2017 implemented a ban on the mercy killing of healthy animals in public shelters, but whether the “advanced” policy has really improved animal welfare needs to be assessed, he said.

Animals in public shelters cannot be killed unless they are confirmed by veterinarians to have infectious or incurable diseases, seriously affect environmental hygiene or have other emergencies, the Animal Protection Act states.

While the council has dedicated considerable funds to promote its “trap, neuter, vaccination and return” program for stray animals, the number of stray dogs has increased from 128,000 in 2017 to 147,000, while building new public animal shelters has proved difficult, he said.

Echoing Chen’s concern, Animal Protection Association chairman Lee Chao-chuan said that the ban was pushed by certain groups, despite a lack of complementary measures.

Lee, a former director of the Tainan Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office, said that more surveys on abandoned and stray animals are needed, while people in rural areas need to be educated about reducing canine breeding.

Protecting endangered wild animals, such as Formosan black bears, is a more pressing issue, Chen said.

The council would next month publish data about the numbers and habitat conditions of threatened species once a survey has been completed, he said.

The council is also promoting organic farming methods by offering farmers financial rewards in a bid to reduce insecticide poisoning in the food chain, he added.