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  • Shirley McGreal
    For story with photos check TaipeiTimes
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2005
      For story with photos check TaipeiTimes

      Activists point to widespread animal abuse
      Taiwan has some of the world's most comprehensive
      laws covering the treatment of animals, but the
      actual enforcement of these laws is another matter entirely

      By Gavin Phipps
      Mar 27, 2005,Page 17

      Ask anyone on the street their views regarding
      the need for animal welfare and chances are a
      vast majority will, on moral or religious
      grounds, have strong opinions in favor of
      treating animals with the same respect as humans.
      Despite this, animal abuse remains an unavoidable fact of life in Taiwan.

      Chickens are inhumanely slaughtered in public at
      wet markets, the sale of dog meat continues,
      traditional Chinese medicine stores continue to
      sell parts of endangered animals, and take a
      stroll down Taipei's infamous Snake Alley on any
      given day and the sight of snakes awaiting their slaughter is inescapable.

      With such widespread abuse, the public could be
      forgiven for supposing the nation is void of any
      laws governing the welfare of the nation's
      non-human inhabitants. In reality, however,
      Taiwan has some of the world's most comprehensive
      laws governing the treatment of animals.

      When the government implemented the Animal
      in November 1998, Taiwan became only the 54th
      country to introduce laws pertaining to the welfare of animals.

      Recently captured stray dogs, above, at a shelter
      in Taipei await the attention of a veterinary
      surgeon. A sick brown bear, below, at Kaohsiung's
      Shoushan Zoo is shown in a photo taken covertly by activists.

      The Animal Protection
      covers the treatment of all animals, domestic,
      wild and livestock. Laws cover everything from
      maltreatment and abandonment to the use of
      animals in gambling and even the age of those who
      can legally be held responsible for the well
      being of a domestic animal. Fines against those
      who flout the rules range from NT$2,000 to
      NT$2500,000, and in certain cases abuses can lead to imprisonment.

      Yet while Taiwan has such comprehensive laws,
      many of them only exist on paper. The actual
      enforcement of the laws is another matter
      entirely. The Council of Agriculture (COA,
      ¦æ¬F°|¹A·~·|) works tirelessly to enforce the
      law, but with a mere six full-time animal
      inspectors employed to cover the whole of Taipei
      City and its environs and with even fewer to
      monitor other areas, it's hardly surprising that little gets done.

      "They have some of the best laws in the world,
      but they simply don't enforce them and there are
      certainly not enough inspectors to do the job,"
      said the International Primate Protection
      League's (IPPL) Taiwan field representative,
      Charles Shuttleworth. "When the police do act
      they do a very a good job indeed, but they could do a lot more."

      One of the first foreign nationals to take a
      vocal interest in animal welfare in Taiwan,
      Shuttleworth has been at the forefront of animal
      conservation since 1969. And while he feels that
      a lot more could be done to ensure that animals
      are protected, he has seen some remarkable changes over the past 30 years.

      "It used to be terrible. People would chop limbs
      off animals while they were still alive. People
      would put monkeys in cages and leave them out in
      the sun because they believed it would make
      [monkeys] smaller and cuter," he said. "I even
      saw a man put a tube up a crocodile's [anus],
      blow air into it and then jump on the creature so
      it would make what he considered to be a funny sound."

      Horrific abuses such as these may still take
      place, but they are kept a long way from the
      public's gaze. Like Shuttleworth, veterinary
      surgeon and Secretary General of the Animal
      Protection Association of the Republic of China
      (APA,) Huang Ching-rong has also witnessed a lot
      of positive changes in the way people view animals in Taiwan over the years.

      "I remember when animal rights first became an
      issue in the 1960s. It all started with the water
      buffalo. Farmers were so fed up with their cattle
      roaming onto roads only to be hit by cars that
      they petitioned the government to dig ditches at
      the sides of roads to stop their cattle from being killed," Huang said.

      According to Huang, there are so many loopholes
      in the laws that individuals who harm animals are
      rarely, if ever, prosecuted for the correct reasons.

      "You could kill a dog, dump the body in the
      street, and chances are you'd be charged with the
      unlawful disposal of garbage rather than the
      killing of a domestic animal," said Huang. "And
      you only have to look at the huge number of feral
      dogs roaming the streets to realize that fines
      for abandonment don't work at all."

      The issue of feral dogs has long been the most
      publicized of all animal-welfare issues. The law
      currently states than any dog found without a
      collar or identification chip should be held in a
      shelter for 10 days. If the animal remains
      unclaimed after this period it can then be
      legally put to sleep by lethal injection. Some
      pounds ignore this regulation, however, and for
      financial reasons put dogs down after only four or five days.

      Animal rights groups like the Life
      Conservationist Association (LCA) are against the
      slaughter of any animal, but it is not only the
      act of putting dogs to sleep that has them
      appalled. The manner in which many dogs are put
      down is contrary to legal guidelines, they say.

      "The dog pounds contract out the task of
      injecting the dogs to private contractors. Sure,
      there might be a trained vet among them, but this
      is not always the case," said the LCA's Hank Lee.

      "A lot of dogs get injected in the incorrect part
      of their anatomy by inexperienced handlers.
      Instead of a relatively painless and quick death
      these dogs often suffer horrendously before finally dying."

      While the feral-dog problem continues to cause
      debate and will, according to the LCA's Lee,
      "quite possibly get worse before it gets better,"
      one of the most vocal of all of Taiwan's animal
      rights groups, the Environment and Animal Society
      of Taiwan has enjoyed great success in its
      campaign to clean up the way in which the nation's slaughterhouses operate.

      Every year 300 million chickens, 31 million
      ducks, 10 million pigs, 6 million geese, 364,000
      turkeys, 260,000 goats and roughly 40,000 cows
      are slaughtered in order to satisfy the nation's
      craving for meat. A majority of these animals are
      slaughtered in one of the 80 carefully monitored
      government-run abattoirs, but others are not so
      lucky and are killed at private slaughterhouses
      that still practice inhumane methods of animal slaughter.

      "Until four years ago nearly every slaughterhouse
      disregarded the law," said EAST's Director, Wu Hung.

      "Pigs had their feet bound to stop them from
      walking in order to make the meat richer. Cows
      were starved of food and force-fed water for
      three to four days before slaughter in order to
      make them heavier and chickens were often put
      into feathering machines still alive," he said.

      On his once-regular visits to abattoirs, Wu not
      only witnessed pre-slaughter abuse, but also saw
      the inhumane methods employed by slaughterhouse
      workers to kill the animals. Pigs, cows, chickens
      and goats were often slain by having their
      throats cut and were rarely, if ever stunned and put to sleep beforehand.

      EAST's awareness campaign caused such a commotion
      and had such an effect on the general public that
      the COA was finally forced to act.

      "We were very concerned about the way in which
      slaughterhouses were being run," said the COA's
      Andrew Wang. "We now have 300 inspectors who
      visit and monitor slaughterhouses to ensure that
      they are both hygienic and employ humane methods of slaughter."

      By law, all abattoirs must now first stun an
      animal with an electric prod and, when the animal
      is asleep, fire a single shot from a bolt gun
      into the beast's head. Slaughterhouses found to
      employ inhumane practices now face fines from
      NT$100 to NT$500,000. The COA also has the right
      to close operations of any slaughterhouse that
      openly or continually flouts the regulations.

      The COA may be confident that it has eradicated
      inhumane practices of animal slaughter, but EAST
      is not convinced. Since it's campaign made
      headline news, the animal-rights group has been
      denied access to nearly all of the nation's
      slaughterhouses. And, according to the group, it
      is quite possible that 60 percent of pigs are still being killed inhumanely.

      Local animal-rights groups may remain wary of how
      the government deals with laws pertaining to the
      rights of domestic and farm animals, but one area
      in which the NGOs and the government have
      successfully worked together is that of outlawing
      the capture and sale of indigenous wildlife, especially primates.

      Until the late 1980s the sight of illegally
      imported orangutans and local primates was
      commonplace. But Taiwan's inclusion in the
      Convention on International Trade in Endangered
      Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has
      reduced the once-widespread importation of endangered animals.

      On a more local scale, the opening of the
      Pingtung Rescue Center for Endangered and Wild
      Animals in 1993 enabled authorities to place any
      illegally imported animal into proper care. Since
      its opening, the center has rescued more than
      1,000 animals and now participates in educational
      exchange programs with institutes overseas.

      "The media attention given to the CITES agreement
      and the opening of the Pintung Rescue Center have
      been pivotal in altering people's concepts of how
      we view and treat endangered animals," said Huang.

      "Without them Taiwan would not have made such
      great inroads in the area of animal welfare," he said.

      The sale and importation of primates may have
      successfully been stemmed, but the plight of the
      Formosan macaque has now taken center stage.
      While no longer critically endangered, the
      Formosan macaque remains, according to the World
      Conservation Union's (IUCN) Red List of
      Threatened Animals, at risk of extinction in the
      wild in the medium-term future. Every year dozens
      of them are killed or maimed by wire snares and poisons laid out by hunters.

      "There is not and never has been a government
      regulation on the number of macaques that can be
      caught and moved, and if there was I'm sure the
      farmers would complain," said Lee Ling-ling of
      the Department of Zoology at National Taiwan
      University. "Until some kind of legal framework
      can be settled upon, it's a no-win situation for
      everybody concerned," Lee added.

      Once hunted solely for its bones, which were
      boiled down into a broth and drunk by young men
      who believed the concoction would give them
      everlasting virility, the trapping of macaques
      was outlawed in 1989. While it is illegal to
      slaughter macaques, even trespassing ones,
      farmers can apply for a permit to trap the
      primates. The unlicensed killing of a macaque is
      punishable with a lengthy prison sentence or a
      hefty fine or both, depending on the circumstances.

      Dr. Shirley McGreal, Chairwoman
      International Primate Protection League
      POB 766
      Summerville SC 29484, USA
      Ph. 843-871-2280: Fax: 843-871-7988: www.ippl.org

      "Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because
      we build cars and buildings and start wars etc...and
      all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish
      and play around. Dolphins believe that they are
      smarter for exactly the same reasons."
      --Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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