Animal welfare and legislation in Singapore

I attended the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium on Sat, 25 Feb 2012. I found out about this rather late, less than a week before the event, but still registered as I was rather interested to hear the parts about Wildlife Trafficking and Zoo animal welfare.

The programme can be found on the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) website here, and Gladys Chua and I live-tweeted the symposium. You can read the tweets that were compiled by Gladys on Storify here.

It was my first time attending this symposium, or any event regarding animal welfare, as I’m usually more concerned about biodiversity conservation than animal welfare. Not that I don’t care about animal welfare, it matters to me too! Just that I doubt I’ll build a career on it… But anyway, the mood was noticeably different from the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium that I attended last September. My reflections on that symposium here. There was a lot more tension and disappointment, especially during the pet welfare segment. People were glad (I assume), to be given a platform on which to voice their opinions. Yet the answers given by the authorities (namely the Agri-Food & Vetinerary Authority (AVA), because that’s the main public agency that deals with such matters. And also because that’s who most of the questions were targeted at.) were non-answers, in my opinion. They didn’t quite answer the question, and in the end, you just get this sense that it’s all just talk. The people were heard, but the-powers-that-be don’t seem to listen. But of course, I’m hoping to be proved wrong.

I also voiced a question during the public forum: Is economic trade a reason why we may not be so quick to act on banning trade on endangered wildlife/strictly enforcing legislation? The answer wasn’t very clear to me, but in summary it was a ‘we will not disregard wildlife concerns for economic reasons’ [note: not exact phrasing, because I can’t remember it word for word] I’m not too sure about that though, because trade is very important to Singapore, and the answer was not convincing.

But in any case, being able to have such a platform to air views and discuss such issues is already progression, and as long as there are people who are concerned, I’m sure there will be change, eventually.

The symposium was also reported in The Sunday Times “Govt to tackle pet welfare” (no link, because The Straits Times is annoying and doesn’t allow users to read most articles for free online) and in Today on Sunday “A national pet adoption centre?” (yay for Today).


About Jocelyne Sze

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
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4 Responses to Animal welfare and legislation in Singapore

  1. Alex says:

    I stumbled on your site because I’m a nature-lover at heart, and wanted to say something here because I also have a keen interest in public policy (one of the hazards in my line of work :P).

    One of my struggles has been in trying to justify the need to protect our biodiversity against the supposedly “pragmatic” needs of society (e.g. jobs, defense, housing). When I was in school, more than a few eyes would roll at the mere mention of nature conservation, especially in contrast to the “benefits” that new shopping malls/factories/(dare I say golf courses) would bring. It was also appalling to learn that the average Singaporean had little idea and/or interest in our biodiversity.

    So when you pointed out the economic importance of trade, weighed against the desire to fight wildlife trafficking, that struck a chord. It made me wonder whether it’s possible for conservation (be it in terms of fighting wildlife trafficking, habitat preservation, etc.) to be put on the table as a “pragmatic” goal for the powers-that-be? (for instance, there could be pragmatic value in preserving our reputation as a trusted port.)

    Clearly I don’t have the answer to the question. But I’m hoping that some day, someone will.

    [P.S. Really nice work with this blog. Thanks for letting Singaporeans know that we do have a natural heritage that deserves our attention :)]

    • jocelynesze says:

      Hi Alex, yes, it is quite sad to find out that the average Singaporean does not know much about our local biodiversity, but I do think interest in it is picking up! Especially after Chek Jawa (:
      Not sure when you were in school, but I think conservation is fast becoming a hot topic, and there are very pragmatic reasons for biodiversity conservation! People are starting to be aware that our lives are intricately linked with the health of our planet and if we lose biodiversity, there will also be repercussions on us.
      Unfortunately though, with regards to the powers-that-be, I have no answer either… I’m sure it can, and will be, one day…
      Thanks for the compliment!

      • Alex says:

        Thanks Jocelyne, it’s heartening to know that interest has grown =) (-> As an indication of age, I’m from the generation that types our smileys “eyes” first)

        Just one point to add – while some interest is generally better than none, there’s occasionally the risk of over-zealousness that may endanger the very creatures that people want to see and protect. For instance, the reefs at Tioman can get pretty roughed up by the hordes of learner divers who can’t control their buoyancy but have a genuine interest in the marine world. Or excited nature-rambling kids could frighten and stress the occasional pangolin that crosses their path in the Central Catchment Area (must admit that I’ve never seen a wild pangolin but would love to).

        So while intentions may be good, I guess proper education and good habits are just as vital so that people know how to react properly in the natural world. We’re probably also a bit too spoiled by the “controlled” nature that’s around us (e.g. manicured parks with pretty-looking non-native flora and fauna), and it’s a shock to our systems when we’re actually put in the wild. Likewise, when the wild comes a-calling, say in the form of a macaque or civet cat in our backyards, the instinctive reaction may be to flip out and call for pest removal.

        Anyway, I hope that you continue your mission of educating and informing, and that your love for nature just keeps on growing =)

      • jocelynesze says:

        Haha smileys are not an indication of age! Well anyway that’s just coming from my perspective, no one has done a study on that in Singapore, and there isn’t a baseline data so… In America, apparently it’s waning!

        Yes definitely agree with you on that point! Education is very important, to ensure that we don’t love our wildlife/environment to death. That’s why I think that Outdoor Education should include Environmental aspects, and Outdoor Environmental Education should be a part of syllabus! Like in National Education or something; after all, all this is part of our nation, and a strong attachment to our environment helps in nation-building right… And yes, most of us can’t survive in the real wild hahaha.

        Thanks, will try! And I hope yours too! 🙂

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