Sri Lanka’s cabinet has passed a long-awaited animal welfare bill just days after US pop star Cher called out a state-run elephant orphanage.
The draft was presented to cabinet on January 10 by the Sri Lankan agriculture minister. It aims to protect animals from cruelty and torture.
Sri Lanka’s animal welfare bill
The Animal Welfare Bill was drafted 15 years ago to replace a century-old law but was delayed for a number of reasons.
One of the most significant parts of the bill is the legal definition for “animal.” The old law defined an animal to be a domestic or captured animal.
But the new draft has widened the scope to mean any living being other than a human. The punishment for cruelty will also change if the bill goes through parliament.
Existing punishment is a fine not less than Rs 100 ($0.5) or a jail term that can’t exceed three months. The new law provides fines up to Rs 150,000 ($740) and longer jail terms.
Some of the proposed new offenses include abandonment of animals, willful deprivation of food and water, and castration or sterilization unless completed by a veterinary surgeon.
Cher calls out elephant orphanage on Twitter
Sri Lanka regularly makes headlines over animal cruelty. The week before the bill was passed, a video of two baby elephants in a river at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage went viral.
The video posted on Twitter by Rally for Animal Rights & Environment (RARE) received thousands of views after Cher commented on the baby elephant’s treatment.
Cher said: “Does this look right, humane to anyone? These babies look terrified, they want their mother.”
The same day, Cher tweeted about the treatment of elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand.
There’s still a lot of work to do…
Approval of the bill was welcomed by PETA Asia. Its senior vice president for Asia, Jason Baker, notes that it signals progress for the animal rights movement across the country.
Baker added that work still needs to be done. “The bill does little to protect typically farmed animals, such as chickens, who are perhaps the most abused animals on the planet,” he said.
The bill still has to go through a number of stages before being implemented.