Activists Seek Clarity In Animal Cruelty Law

Police rescue 550 caged dogs in Sakol Nakhon province, 26 April 2013, from suspected dog meat dealers.  

BANGKOK — Animal rights activists have petitioned the government to strengthen a draft of the country's first animal protection law, which was proposed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last month.

In a joint petition filed to the government today, representatives from several animal rights organisations say the draft of the law is contradictory and imprecise. 

For example, while section 17 of the draft says that "cruel acts against animals without due cause" are punishable by up to one year in prison and a 20,000 baht fine, section 18 allows exceptions based on "religious" and "traditional" grounds. As a result, killing animals in a religious ritual or using chickens in a ‘traditional’ cock fighting tournament could be considered legal.

Chollada Mekratree, a Thai fashion model who led the animal rights activists today, said the law also needs to better define exactly what constitutes cruelty against animals. In the current draft, cruelty is briefly defined as “action or lack of action that causes pain, disability, or death to animals.”

"We want the laws to be strong and enforceable in a strict way," Chollada said. "I don't want there to be any loopholes."

Chollada said the petition lists 20 definitions of animal cruelty that activists would like to see included in Section 17, such as torture, forced labour, drugging, deforming, and detention of animals in a crowded, unclean environment. 

Consuming live animals or engaging in sexual intercourse with animals would also count as cruelty under these proposed definitions, Chollada said, adding that more than 100,000 people have signed the petition.

In response to the petition, Suthep Yimlamool, a senior legal adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, said the lawmakers did not include those definitions because "they would be too specific."

"We want the law to be open for some cases," Suthep explained. 

The draft of the bill, named the "Prevention of Cruelty of Animal and Promotion of Animal Welfare Act," received fast-tracked consideration in the NLA’s first session on 11 October and is currently under further deliberation by committees. The NLA is expected to vote on the draft again later this month. 

Animal rights activists say the law is long overdue as there are currently no laws against animal cruelty in Thailand.

Thailand is a supplier in the dog meat trade, and also a hub for animal tourism, with abundant opportunities for tourists to pay to interact with exotic creatures like tigers and elephants. According to animal welfare groups, many of these captive animals are physically mistreated and some of them have been taken by poachers from the wild.

 
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