…House votes to send it to Select Committee
After its second reading, the Animal Welfare Bill No. 21 of 2016 will be sent to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee for further consideration following an extensive round of debating by members of the National
The Bill presented by Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, deals with the welfare of animals and provides for their protection and well-being. The People’s Progressive Party Civic parliamentarians, however, called for the Bill to be placed before the committee so as to facilitate consultation which they believed was lacking.
One of the areas of contention was Clause 28 of the Bill which requires breeders of three or more companion animals, who wish to sell those animals, to apply to the competent authority for permission before he or she commences breeding the animals.
The ‘authority’ refers to the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) while ‘companion animal’ under the Bill means any animal kept by man for companionship, protection, assistance or interest, in other words, pets.
The GLDA would then have to keep a record of all breeders. According to the Bill any person who fails to comply with the provision of the section commits an offence.
Clause 38 of the Bill imposes a penalty in the form of a fine of $60,000 and to imprisonment for four months.
Moreover the Bill prevents persons from selling pets to individuals under the age of 18. Owners of such animals will be expected to ensure that their animals cannot move in a way that poses a risk to the health and safety of other animals and people. The Bill also seeks to prevent the sale of companion animals to persons below the age of 18.
Speaking on the issue was PPPC Parliamentarian, Zulfikar Mustapha, who said that the measure shows Government taking their tax regime “to the dogs.”
“If you breed dogs now for sale you have to register that business. That is literally taking this to the dogs in our country.”
Additionally, the Bill calls for anyone who intends to use any animal in a film or television production, exhibition or competition to notify the GLDA of the place and time of the event at least seven days prior to the occasion.
Mustapha asked whether persons participating in horse racing events or film makers would have to approach the authority for every event held or production created.
“In my Region, horse racing is a big attraction. What will happen to those national events? Would the media have to get permission to film it? In promoting tourism, would international film companies now have to feel the brunt of the bureaucracy in promoting our country’s tourism potential?”
The Bill also prevents a livestock farmer from transporting his animals beyond 50 kilometres using his personal vehicle. “Would this mean that a farmer from Berbice or a far flung area travelling to Georgetown would have to transport their animals 50 kilometres in their vehicle and then use another vehicle to transport the animals to Georgetown? This is an additional burden on the backs of livestock farmers Mr Speaker.”
Another criticism against the presented Bill came from MP Dharamkumar Seeraj who said that the provisions speak little to improving welfare at the stage of the fields for animals and farmers.
He said that at present, conditions at best can be described as primitive. Seeraj told the National Assembly that the physical infrastructure is not in place to give effect to the requirements made of farmers.
He stressed, also, that emphasis needs to be placed on consolidating production and providing incentives to farmers to expand and grow.
Meanwhile, Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings told the House that animals and humans depend on each other in innumerable ways. She explained that having a healthy population of animals ensures that the world’s population can remain well nourished.
Cummings later mentioned five internationally recognised freedoms of animal welfare which the Bill seeks to uphold. These are freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
According to Minister Holder, the Animal Welfare Bill was drafted in 2011 to fulfil Guyana’s readiness to access the export market for non-traditional agricultural Products, which was driven by the Agricultural Export Diversification Project (ADP), an IDB-funded project. It was discussed in Cabinet in 2014 but was never placed before this house.
He explained that welfare encompasses both physical and psychological well-being, therefore a multi-pronged approach is proposed through this bill. “Animal welfare incorporates all aspects of an animal’s well-being, including housing, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, transport, and humane slaughter, be it livestock or companion animals.”
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