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Urgent questions about the welfare of wildlife that Parliament needs to ask

This is an excerpt from an article written by Don Pinnock and published online by Daily Maverick on 26 August, 2020.

As Department of Agriculture officials file into a meeting with Parliament’s Environmental Portfolio Committee on Friday (August 28) to explain the animal welfare laws they administer and the implications of listing 93 wild animals under the Meat Safety Act, many important questions remain unanswered.

Responsibility for the protection of wild animals straddles the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and is falling through the cracks.

The situation is so confusing that in 2018 Parliament passed a resolution demanding that the two departments present a clear programme of action to address the issue. Two years later there’s no evidence of this being complied with and there seems to be little communication between the departments on this.

In that time both departments have muddied the water even further. A high-level panel appointed under Environment Minister Barbara Creecy to review wildlife policy doesn’t mention animal welfare in its Terms Of Reference. And the Department of Agriculture has been “protecting” wild animals by declaring more than 100 subject to farming regulations. 

So when MPs meet Agriculture officials some urgent questions need answering. A puzzling but pressing one to begin with is: What’s a wild animal?

The answer seems self-evident, but in South Africa it’s a moving target. Late in 2019, 32 wild animals, including lions, giraffes, white and black rhinos, lions and cheetahs, were listed under the Animal Improvement Act (AIA), effectively rendering them farm animals subject to manipulation and consumption.

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