Local Government elections have been announced. And, amidst the political campaigns is a novel campaign – non-political and gaining ground. “We will vote only for those who are compassionate and sensitive towards animals and respect nature” says one of their campaign slogans. ”My vote is only for those who Purr Yes to kindness and Growl [...]


Purr yes to kindness and growl no to cruelty: Remember, vote to protect animals and trees


Local Government elections have been announced. And, amidst the political campaigns is a novel campaign – non-political and gaining ground. “We will vote only for those who are compassionate and sensitive towards animals and respect nature” says one of their campaign slogans. ”My vote is only for those who Purr Yes to kindness and Growl No to cruelty – Speak up for Animal Rights” says another.

The campaign was launched by the “Alliance for the Protection of Community Dogs” to draw the attention of candidates to the horrendous suffering of Sri Lanka’s animals and the devastating effects of massive deforestation and remind them that animals have no vote, but those who care for them do. They urge the soon-to-be local authority members to respond publicly to two questions  – What is your policy on preventing animal cruelty and protecting nature? How will you implement that  policy?

In this pre-dominantly Buddhist nation, how many politicians are aware of the Buddha’s teachings on compassion to  ALL living beings and the importance of reverence to nature?

Sri Lanka’s rich animal friendly cultural heritage where our ancient kings gave vast protection to animals is no more.  In their wisdom, our ancient rulers also prohibited the felling of forests, but today there is wanton deforestation for political gain. Relentless campaigning by activists to stop this cruelty and destruction has been near futile. As a recent editorial in “The Sunday Times”, highlighting animal cruelty in slaughterhouses,  livestock farms, zoos, laboratories, homes, streets and even in places of religious worship, commented:“What is lacking, however, is the political will by successive Governments to get the necessary legislation into place, and put in place an administrative mechanism throughout the country’s local government councils to tackle these issues.”

Let’s recall what the Presidential candidates pledged in 2005 and 2015.

“Mahinda Chinthana – Towards a New Sri Lanka” (2005) documents the candidate’s desire to make Sri Lanka  “A land in harmony with nature” and for this purpose his Manifesto had among its 574 promises a pledge “to amend without delay the outdated laws on prevention of cruelty to animals since cruelty to animals is a disgrace on humanity”  – a pledge that could have been easily fulfilled, for awaiting enactment was an all-encompassing  Animal Welfare Bill recommended by Sri Lanka’s Law Commission, for that very purpose. Obstructed by those with vested interests, that Bill remained comatose and it is no surprise that the 2010 Manifesto of the same candidate gloriously titled “The Mahinda Chinthana – Vision for the Future”,  had no mention of animal welfare.

In 2015, six animal welfare and environmental organizations lobbied the Presidential candidates to include these items in their Manifestos and succeeded in getting into the Manifesto of the Common Candidate who pledged “A Compassionate Government  – A  Stable Society”, two  of their  nine proposals – that “legislation will be soon introduced to prevent violence  to animals” and that “the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance will be strictly implemented without fear or favour.” This candidate was the winner – the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena who gave hope to activists, when under his “100 Days Programme”, the  Animal Welfare Bill was submitted to Cabinet in November 2015. Cabinet approved the Bill in January 2016. However, vested interests continued to impede its progress- predominantly the poultry industry wanting “poultry” excluded from the Bill, arguing that adhering to welfare standards will escalate their overheads and reduce profit.

Although then President Rajapaksa’s declaration of a “No Kill Policy” in 2006 directing  sterilisation and vaccination of dogs as the humane option for rabies control (instead of killing) was applauded by animal rights activists, during his regime there were many instances of sterilised and  vaccinated dogs cared for by the community, disappearing in a background of city beautification or seizure when sprucing up premises for VIP visits. With their fate undisclosed, these harmless dogs were feared brutally killed. Activists are well aware of the identity of these VIP politicians and have vowed never to vote for them, since this cruel practice is common knowledge, but no attempts were made to stop it. The “No Kill Policy” continues, so do the seizures and disappearances.

The obnoxious practice of insulting animals from political platforms by calling opponents gerandiyas,  rilawas, gonas, korawakkas, etc., must stop. These mostly useless humans can be ridiculed for their own negative traits without meaningless reference to animals, who have been found to be far superior to humans in several ways.

Today, animal welfare is a global movement. No longer are animals considered chattel; they are sentient beings, receiving the status of “personhood” by statute and judicial determinations. Animals serve man in numerous ways. They carry pollen for plants to grow and create forests vital for mitigating the impact of natural disasters. An integral component of the eco-system, trees help to maintain bio-diversity,  combat climate change, absorb carbon dioxide harmful to human health and release oxygen essential for survival. Scavenger animals contribute to maintaining a healthy habitat, companion animals support the disabled, service animals detect criminals, pets give joy to their owners – these are a few examples.

How many of our local councillors have read their own Local Authority By Laws published in Gazette Extraordinary No.520/7  of 23rd August 1988  on  prevention of animal cruelty?

As Victor Hugo said, “First it was necessary to civilize man in relation to man.  Now it is necessary to civilize man in relation to nature and animals.”

Local Government Minister Faiszer Mustapha recently asked a group of animal rights activists whether they think they can topple governments, but he will agree that each vote counts.We call upon each of the 8356 candidates to have compassion for animals and respect nature. And, pledge to protect both. And, honour that pledge and all others – not end up as yet another despicable politician.


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