A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JOINT CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
04 August 2006
ANIMAL PROTECTION SUBMISSION: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE REPORT-BACK
Acting Chairperson: Dr E Schoeman (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Letter from the Humane Education Trust
Performing Animals Protection Act, No.24 of 1935
Environmental Protection Laws and the Livestock Sector
Animal Welfare Issues as Pertains to the Environmental Protection Laws
The Department of Agriculture briefed the Committee on protection of animal rights, presently incorporated in a number of different Acts. The implementation processes, education programmes, and land care programmes were described. The Department’s policy on animal rights took into consideration the diversity of cultures and beliefs regarding animals, and considered different challenges to animal protection in urban and rural areas. There had been a shift in policy from “animal welfare” to the concept of “animal care” which concentrated both on preventing animal abuse and assisting people in obtaining maximum benefit from their animals. Animal disease in urban areas was a matter of grave concern, and municipal regulations were widely disparate. Non-governmental organizations were assisting and setting good examples to the community. It might however be useful to expand the Department’s control over more animal species and to put greater emphasis on proper care of animals. Challenges included increasing the Department’s capacity to deal with animal protection, and to include animal welfare organizations in the government framework. The Department believed that it might be helpful to consolidate some of the legislation. The Department proposed that a national animal welfare committee be created to deal with a number of issues, to make more stringent regulations and to expand more into rural areas.
Questions posed by members included the need for new legislation and the proper enforcement of existing legislation, whether there was a need for constitutional amendments to balance the possible conflict between human and animal rights, branding and dehorning, and the number and capacity of veterinary services in the country. It was also stressed that there was a need for policy and legislation to reflect local conditions. The possible incorporation of several pieces of legislation needed to be resolved urgently.
The Chair reported that during last year the Committee had received submissions requesting that animal rights be added to the Constitution. The Committee had examined other countries’ constitutions and consulted with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Tourism. The Department of Agriculture was responsible for the Animal Protection Act, and that Department had then also shared their views with the Committee. The Committee had also received submissions regarding abuses of animals that have taken place in traditional ceremonies. The Committee now had to consider whether the existing legislation was adequate to address animal abuse, whether existing legislation required amendment and whether there needed to be an amendment to the Constitution.
Department of Agriculture Briefing
Dr Sizwe Mkhize (Assistant Director-General, Department of Agriculture) explained that a variety of legislation for the protection of animals already existed, including the Performance Animal Protection Act of 1935, the Animals Protection Act of 1962, the Animal Diseases Act of 1984, the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1993, and the 1998 Animal Improvement Act. Implementation took the form of incentives such as training programmes in communities, capacity-building programmes, public education campaigns and land care programmes. Local inspectors worked throughout the country, especially in areas where the Department of Agriculture was displeased with the level of compliance with animal protection laws. Most of the work of the Department was implemented through its provincial offices, which worked closely with municipalities.
Mr K Ramsay (Senior Livestock Specialist, Department of Agriculture) outlined the Department’s policy with regard to animal rights, and reported that it took into consideration South Africa’s diversity of cultures and beliefs regarding animals, and considered different challenges to animal protection in urban and rural areas. Mr Ramsay emphasized the fact that there had been a shift in policy from a focus on the concept of “animal welfare” to the concept of “animal care.” The concept of “animal care” was oriented towards preventing animal abuse and assisting people in getting the most benefit from their animals, as opposed to simply punishing those engaging in animal abuse. The Department presently focused on animals in urban areas and the problem of animal disease, which was “a potential time bomb.” Although most municipalities had ordinances regarding animals, they differed widely. The Department would shortly be publishing a document containing a model for local government on animal care.
Mr Ramsay added that it might be helpful to consolidate two acts into one, though he acknowledged that that would involve a lengthy process. Although the current acts did not focus on animal care, the Department could manage to implement the existing legislation, with some changes. Some non-governmental organizations, such as a local carthorse association, were setting an example that the government could follow by promoting animal care. Mr Ramsey also described the concept of “community kraals,” whereby urban communities could collectively care for their animals, and reduce the risk of animal disease.
The Department was working on guidelines that affected every species and class of animal in the country, including draft animals, “backyard breeding,” and campaigns to promote goats. The Department could effectively control a larger portion of the population and should consider renaming animal right legislation to reflect the emphasis on animal care.
Mr Motseki Hlatshwayo (Directorate: Animal and Aqua Production Systems, Department of Agriculture) noted the importance of animals being used for cultural and ceremonial purposes, as well as for research. The Department needed to increase its capacity to deal with animal protection, and to include animal welfare organisations in working within the framework set by government. The Department proposed the creation of a national animal welfare committee to develop proposals on how to manage animal care, which would include housing and handling facilities for animals; management issues such as dehorning, castration and transport of animals; and slaughtering. The Department also had to consider the different situations of companion animals, sport animals, zoo animals, and animals in kennels. Mr Hlatshwayo reported that the Department was continuing to expand its base of stakeholders, to identify globally accepted principles for animal welfare, and to work on disaster management plans, in particular for poor weather. Improvements in animal welfare would lead to improvements in productivity. The Department still needed to make more stringent regulations and to expand them into rural areas.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) was pleased to hear the Department of Agriculture’s emphasis on caring for animals and asked if this affected an individual’s duty to care for his animals.
Mr A Guam (ANC) noted that the Department seemed to have implemented animal protection to a certain degree, but asked if, in the light of Mr Ramsay’s comment that he “could live with the existing legislation”, new legislation was not required.
Dr Hlatshwayo agreed that the current legislation was problematic, and that the government needed to consider whether it reflected the current policy of animal care. Many of the old acts lacked appropriate enforcement mechanisms. He said that the Department had conducted sub-sector analyses of rural areas and found that capacity was still a real problem.
Mr C Burgess (ANC) pointed out that when Constitutional rights conflicted with animal rights, human constitutional rights would prevail. He asked if it was necessary to amend the Constitution or whether a simple amendment of existing legislation would suffice.
The Chairperson pointed out that additional legislation in itself would not be effective; it was proper enforcement that mattered. Because of the realities of the South African situation the animal rights criteria could not be the same as New Zealand or the United States, citing the example of traditional ceremonies that have been acknowledged by the government. He enquired if oversight between the different national, provincial and local authorities was functioning effectively.
Dr Mkhize reported that the Department was not fully enforcing the legislation that already existed, and that the current legislation could be far more effective if it was properly enforced. However, the legislation was old and outdated and required updating at the very least. He pointed out that any Act written prior to 1994 should be reexamined, and that the current or new legislation must ensure that the standards set for animal protection were relevant to the present situation. Mr Ramsay added that the Department was mindful of the lengthy process to change legislation, and added that the Department would delay improvements in animal care policy pending new legislation. However, it was important to incorporate the Department’s ethical codes into law so that they could be more effectively enforced. There were already several proposals ready for public consultation.
Dr Hlatshwayo commended the Chairperson’s comment that there was a need for policies to reflect the African context. He described a new programme where the Department was planning to make use of community livestock officers who would be trained to properly perform functions such as dehorning for people in their area. He added the programme still needed to be implemented, but that it reflected the Department’s developmental agenda.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) indicated that animals in her local rural area were generally well cared for. Branding animals remained vital to the poor population’s livelihood. She enquired whether the Department of Agriculture was aware of a less painful alternative to branding and if there were humane ways to cut the horns of cattle.
Mr Ramsay explained that branding was not as painful as it appeared and remained one of the only methods of identification that could clearly be seen. The Department had yet to find a less-painful alternative, although it had been looking at freeze branding. The Animal Identification Act regulated branding, because it posed serious problems if it was improperly done. He reported that the Department was investigating new methods. He added that the introduction of community livestock officers would provide people to humanely perform functions such as branding and dehorning. Since animals were so important to people with limited resources, it was vital to protect them.
Dr Hlatshwayo added that the concept of animal welfare was also designed to increase small farmer competitiveness by improving the quality of their livestock. The availability of veterinarians remained very important. There was a system with both provincial and national veterinarians that should be consolidated. There were currently not enough qualified veterinarians graduating and many of those who did graduate either left the country or went to work for private companies.
Mr Burgess suggested that perhaps veterinarians should be moved from Schedule Five of the Constitution, which listed issues under the jurisdiction of the provinces, to Schedule Four of the Constitution, which listed issues that the provinces and the national government handled concurrently.
The Chairperson pointed out that the debate on whether provincial services such as veterinary services should become a concurrent national competence has been ongoing since 1995. He agreed that the issue of veterinarians could help solve local problems. He asked whether the Department of Agriculture saw the current Constitution as an impediment to enforcing animal rights - for example, the Constitution recognised traditional rights but not animal rights. He believed there needed to be guidelines for African practices regarding animals.
Mr Burgess commented that even if the Constitution was amended the existing laws would still have to be altered and enforced. Only the German Constitution included the issue of animal rights. He asked whether there had been any dialogue with non-governmental organizations about law reform and the capacity to implement animal protection. He wanted to know how the issue under discussion had been brought to the attention of the committee.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) asked whether the delegation thought a Constitutional amendment was the appropriate course of action.
The Chairperson commented that a very strong case would need to be made out before Constitutional amendment could be done.
Dr Hlatshwayo said that the Department did not think that the Constitution had to be amended. It had not in any way obstructed their work. He added that he was not aware of any meeting in which the Department of Agriculture had consulted with non-governmental organizations on the issue. He commented that the might be a lesson for the Department.
Dr Hlatshwayo added that there were simply not enough trained people on the ground to ensure that government policies and views were shared throughout the country. He added however, that the Department of Agriculture strove to implement only those policies that were socially acceptable to everyone in South Africa.
Ms Ndzanga asked why the Constitution should be altered to exclude the traditional practice of slaughtering animals.
The Chairperson replied that certain procedures for customary slaughtering were laid down.
The Chairperson commented that the internal debate in the Department of Agriculture regarding the need to combine the various pieces of animal rights legislation should proceed speedily.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.