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CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
9 June 2006
BIODIVERSITY LEGISLATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: DEPARTMENT PRESENTATION
Chairperson: Dr E Schoeman (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Biodiversity legislation and environmental protection: Department presentation
The Humane Education Trust
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on environmental protection. The presentation specifically looked at the Constitution and whether the existing provisions for environmental protection were adequate. The Department felt that the Constitution adequately covered the problems of pollution, hunting and animal cruelty.
Members noted that cultural and traditional sacrifices of animals were not adequately addressed in the Constitution. Members questioned the legal background to animal cruelty and sacrifice in relation to the Constitution. Both the Department and Members concurred that the matter was extremely complex and the Department stated that it would provide a follow-up presentation.
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) briefing
DEAT, Chief Director: Biodiversity and Heritage, Ms Leseho Sello, and the Assistant-Director, Ms Sonja Meintjies, briefed the Committee on legislation regarding environmental protection. The purpose of the briefing was to highlight the existing legislation dealing with animal cruelty.
The areas of discussion included the Constitution, the National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998) (NEMA), the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) and Provincial Legislation.
Members were informed that all South African citizens had the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. The purpose of NEMA was to make provisions for cooperative environmental governance by establishing principles for decision making on matters affecting the environment. The principles took social, economic and environmental aspects into consideration before activities were carried out. The Department did the administration of NEMA and implementation occurred at provincial level.
The purpose of NEMBA was to make provisions for the management of conservation of biodiversity within the framework of NEMA. The Draft Legislation on threatened or protected species established a permit system, the prohibiting of permits for ‘canned’ hunting and permit applications regarding captive breeding facilities. The use of poison, snares, traps, dogs, spears and artificial luring agents were strictly prohibited.
The draft norms and standards relating to the hunting industry in South Africa contained national guidelines for hunting permit applications, the prohibition of hunting in protected areas and damage causing animals and provisions for the accreditation of hunting organisations. The administration of NEMBA was done by the Department and its implementation by provincial authorities.
Provincial Legislation was discussed with regard to the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act (No. 10 of 1998). The Act had established regulations regarding the hunting of game and prescribed the conditions for the keeping of wild animals. In conclusion, the Department noted that the environment was protected in terms of the Constitution; animal welfare was regulated in terms of the Animals Protection Act (No. 84 of 1985) and animal welfare issues were addressed in terms of biodiversity conservation at national and provincial level.
Adv T Masutha (ANC) asked whether the Department was narrowing the scope of the debate on animal cruelty. An area of inquiry that had been omitted in the presentation had been the Common Law and it focussed on domesticated animals. He advised the Department to assess the need to provide specific rights for animal protection. He questioned whether the rights should be put in the Bill of Human Rights and whether animals should be the bearer of rights. He noted that a number of conceptual issues had not been dealt with in the presentation.
Ms Sello responded that the Department could not make provisions for changes to the Constitution. The Department felt that the provisions for animal welfare were adequate and that they complemented the provincial legislation. The same provisions applied to wild animals.
Ms Sello noted that the point of departure for the presentation had been from the environmental perspective. She noted that the Department could only make recommendations within its jurisdiction. She commented that Common Law referred to the responsibility of the person that held the animal. The inclusion of these issues in the Constitution was debatable. The hunting industry could not be neglected because it was an important industry in South Africa. There was a need for better control over “human-animal” cases.
Ms M Njobe (ANC) commented that South Africa was culturally diverse and sometimes animals were involved in certain cultural practices. She asked whether the activities needed control. She queried the process for the extermination of pests and rodents that were ruining crops and other animals that were causing damage.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) asked whether the protesters against animal cruelty objected to traditional slaughtering. She noted that if it were the case, then the Constitution could not be amended.
Ms Sello responded that NEMA included cultural practices that fell under broader activities that impacted on the environment. Unethical hunting had impacted on tourism. Hunting methods must avoid animal suffering. She noted that the presenters were not qualified to discuss cultural matters. It would be linked to the mandate of the Minister.
The Chairperson noted that the matter was extremely complex. He asked whether Section 24 in the Constitution provided the framework for the legislation and whether it was adequate.
Ms S Camerer (DA) stated that the Committee should consider whether the legislation should be the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture.
Ms Meintjies added that hunting with dogs was regulated under provincial legislation. A permit was required for traditional activities. She noted that only Government could authorise the killing of damage-causing animals. Humans were allowed to kill animals in self-defence. Protected areas fell under the game park authority but certain issues were still under discussion.
Adv Masutha (ANC) commented that the Department was not addressing the constitutional issue.
The Chairperson asked whether the Constitution was adequate or whether it needed strengthening. He noted that traditional rights often superseded some practices and this had frustrated animal protection authorities. The Department of Agriculture must be contacted to take the matter further.
Mr A Watson (DA) proposed that the Department’s researchers address the issues discussed and provide feedback about the laws surrounding ritual killing and animal cruelty.
Ms Sello responded that the presentation was not directed toward addressing constitution issues. She noted that future engagements with the Committee would be arranged. She believed that the Constitution was not inadequate and that future presentations would be made with the assistance and inclusion of legal advice.
The meeting was adjourned.
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