Be Guided by Compassion | Daily News

Be Guided by Compassion

Mali is still in captivity at Manila Zoo. She has been kept in solitary confinement there for over 40 years.
Mali is still in captivity at Manila Zoo. She has been kept in solitary confinement there for over 40 years.

Senior Vice President of Campaigns for PETA Asia Jason Baker speaks to the Daily News on their latest achievements and region-wide campaigns against animal rights violations.

PETA Asia is an affiliate of PETA-US, the world’s largest animal rights organisation.

Q: What are PETA Asia’s latest achievements with regard to animal welfare?

A: We are achieving significant advances every day, and they’re all important achievements to furthering our cause. To list just a few recent achievements, they include: the Thailand Elephant Polo Association agreed to stop their annual Elephant Polo Tournament (an example we hope Sri Lanka will now follow); Malaysia’s Astro television channel agreed to cancel a Jallikattu (bull-chasing) competition; Okuchi no Umi Carnival in Seiyo, Japan, agreed to stop their annual pig rodeo event; many companies agreed to ban the use and sale of badger hair in makeup, shaving, and paint brushes; and authorities in Vietnam agreed to reject a plan to build a dolphinarium.

Q: In the Asian region, which country has the best and worst animal welfare?

A: It’s not so much about best and worst, and more about the progression of animal welfare as a concept within each country. This progression depends on a variety of factors, though, most importantly, cultural and socio-economic differences. By taking into account factors such as recognition of animal sentience, the importance of animal protection as a societal value, and the prohibition of cruelty to, and protection for, animals, it is possible to deduce, for example, that animal welfare is treated as a more important policy issue in somewhere like India, than it is in somewhere like Azerbaijan. This by no way means that animal welfare is not a problem in India, only that, as a matter of degree, there are some countries recognizing the concept of animal welfare more than others.

Q: Have you ever examined Sri Lanka’s animal welfare status? What are your observations?

A: As with all countries, there is much improvement required for animal welfare in Sri Lanka. The Animal Welfare Bill, which was submitted by Sri Lanka’s Law Commission in 2006, still hasn’t been passed into law, and it’s now 2018. This is a great shame. The biggest challenge facing animal welfare as a concept is changing people’s mindsets through education, so they recognize the mistreatment of animals as wrong. One of the leading paths to such change is through enlightened government involvement, and if your government doesn’t show that it values a given issue, it is then very difficult to convey the message to its citizens.

Q: In Asia the most commonly cited animal welfare violation cases include elephant captivity, animal slaughter for religious purposes using barbaric means, brutal methods of keeping/ slaughtering animals for food. What are your observations?

A: The concept of animal welfare is, overall, newer in Asia, and therefore, has progressed less than it has in a continent like Europe. As with the countries within Asia, there are also differences between continents based on cultural and socio-economic factors. There are fewer laws in Asia which protect animals from cruelty and exploitation compared to other continents.

This means animal abusers rarely face diligent scrutiny, both under law, or by fellow citizens.

Q: A recent research study revealed that people have to move away from excessive meat eating to face climate change. Comment.

A: We now know that the largest contributor to climate change is animal agriculture. Other than causing animals tremendous suffering, raising animals for food requires enormous amounts of land, food, energy, and water. Significantly more greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture than the combined transportation systems of all countries across the world. If we converted the land used for animal agriculture into crops, oxygen levels and the supply of water would rise significantly, causing carbon emissions, conversely, to fall dramatically.

Despite this fact, there remains a senseless, and seemingly determined focus by many world leaders, both in government and business, on transportation as the main issue, when animal agriculture is both a far larger contributor, and has a much easier solution. That solution is for people to change to a vegan lifestyle.

What makes this solution one which can be accomplished even more easily is that a vegan diet has been scientifically proven to be a lot better for your health. As such, vegan initiatives from world leaders would easily resonate with people. A vegan diet is both one vital for the survival of the planet, and one which is also a lot healthier. Whether someone eats animal products or not, is a simple choice, and we are hopeful people will choose based on what’s more compassionate, rational, and responsible.

Q: What’s the situation of Mali, the elephant? She is still being retained at the Manila zoo despite PETA’s continuous efforts to free her.

A: Yes, unfortunately Mali is still in captivity at Manila Zoo. She has been kept in solitary confinement there for over 40 years. Her foot problems, which aren’t being treated, cause her constant pain and are potentially fatal. We have offered to transfer her to a sanctuary where she can live out her days in peace and comfort, all at no cost to the Philippine government. Negotiations with authorities are always ongoing.

Q: What are the recently reported cruel animal right violation cases in the Asian region?

A: We see terrible abuse of animals in Asia, and in all continents, every day. As mentioned in response to an earlier question, the body of laws addressing animal welfare in countries across Asia is either non-existent, or severely underdeveloped. This means the existing problems within animal welfare are very widespread, and these, by consequence, give rise to more occurrences of gross misconduct towards animals.

Animals used for food and clothing are very often killed in horrific ways, without any anesthetic, and right in front of each other. Those in captivity for human entertainment, such as in zoos and circuses, often live in abhorrent conditions, in extremely unsanitary, and incredibly small cages and enclosures. Their human caretakers also usually show very little compassion, directing and controlling animals through force and fear alone.

Q: What are PETA Asia’s plans for year 2019?

A: What we can tell you is that, as always, we will continue our unrelenting endeavour for the humane, ethical treatment of animals across all countries and industries in Asia. In addition, we will continue to promote the benefits of people adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet.



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