The Malta Independent 8 April 2020, Wednesday

Guaranteeing animal protection from stress, abuse and cruelty

Tuesday, 25 February 2020, 09:20 Last update: about 2 months ago

Denis Montebello, Commissioner for Animal Welfare

This newspaper's initiative in publishing a supplement that highlights - and gives prominence - to animals' rights is definitely a welcome step in the right direction: the need to promote among the general public the appreciation that all sentient beings are entitled to fundamental rights guaranteeing them protection from stress, abuse and cruelty.

In my short term of about a year-and-a-half as Commissioner of Animal Welfare, I have recognised the accuracy of Article 44A of the Animal Welfare Act which lists, among the primary functions of the Commissioner, the promotion of animal welfare and of the importance of maintaining the highest standards of health, the keeping and treatment of animals and the promotion of educational campaigns and social dialogue on animal welfare issues.

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Accordingly, two colleagues in my office are primarily concerned with visiting schools during all the terms of the scholastic year and giving lectures regarding practical information to several classes of students, starting with primary schools.

This undertaking includes the distribution of leaflets and booklets regarding animal care and animal freedom with a new publication, in both English and Maltese, being prepared for publication and distribution.

We can never stress enough the importance of concentrating our promotional efforts on the younger generation. The notion that man has been created in God's image - with superiority over all other living species and endowed with intelligence that gives him the right to use or abuse them at his discretion whether for sustenance, pleasure, entertainment or otherwise - has been ingrained in the Maltese mind for countless generations.

This mistaken rigid belief - that all other creations exist to cater for the needs of Man as the masterpiece of creation - was sometimes softened by allusions that kindness to animals is also part of the Divine Design. However, this is not enough. The interpretation that is embraced by my office is that man has been really endowed with intelligence only to enable him to properly care for all sentient beings; in fact to ensure the protection of all living species, of the earth itself and beyond.

Protection and care could not, however, exclude the breeding and slaughter of a number of species, but this must be done without causing any stress, abuse or cruelty, and slaughtering must be carried out in a most humane way. In fact, when innumerable species are now being bred for human consumption and demand is on the increase, with greed and profits always at loggerheads with animal rights and freedoms, constant monitoring has become absolutely essential to curtail abuse.

In recent years, much has been done to counter traditional practices and several inroads have been made with the promotion of animal rights to welfare, the introduction of specific legislation across Europe and the establishment of worldwide organisations fighting animal abuse.

In Malta, several traditional practices have, in fact, been somewhat curtailed and the general public is learning to accept the reality that something which, a generation ago, was deemed to be part of a way of life, could today constitute a legal infringement. In fact, the anachronism of horse-drawn carriages for tourist entertainment, the indiscriminate shooting of birds, unfettered fishing and breeding - even of exotic species - and other traditional practices and pastimes have already been controlled.

With more promotional efforts, these should be earmarked for even more gradual control, leading to eventual discontinuance.

The Fundamental Five Freedoms of animals should be recognised and respected by everyone. They are, in fact, at the basis of all animal welfare legislation world-wide which guarantees freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.

However, progress is always proportionate to the amount of promotion of animal rights being made, to the awareness being generated among the general public and to the willingness of the law-makers.

This supplement will certainly help diffuse awareness of the importance of animal welfare among the Maltese which will, in turn, serve to help one to better identify any failings in the present system and the relative machinery in place for the protection of animals.

My reports on the need for improvements and relative recommendations (my other cardinal function and so sincerely stressed on my appointment) have so far been well-received on the whole and implementation, although somewhat sluggish, is always on the cards. In fact, a very recent briefing has given me and my colleagues strong indications that there is a definite element of eagerness in the air, which seems to augur well for the welfare of all animals in Malta and Gozo.


This articles was published first in It's an Animal's World Supplement 

Supplement was sponsored by AirMalta
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