Saturday, December 27, 2008
Singaporeans do care
Singaporeans do care
40,000 sign petitionto end animal cruelty –the most in Asia so far
Weekend • December 27, 2008
THE feat surprised even animal rights activists here: Singaporeans have become the first in Asia to put 40,000 signatures to the Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare (UDAW).
The petition, begun by nearly 200 animal welfare groups worldwide, will be presented to the United Nations once 10 million signatures are collected. So far, 1.8 million have been amassed. In the Asia Pacific, Singapore is second only to Australia (140,635), scoring more signatures than New Zealand (36,545) and Thailand (29,734).
Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which is behind the campaign here, called this a “pleasant surprise amid all the bad economic news”.
He said when Acres started campaigning for UDAW two years ago, holding more than 130 roadshows, it did not expect to garner so much support from Singaporeans. He puts the success down to “personal touch” and “the work of a bunch of passionate volunteers”.
“Unlike online petitions where you go and click a button, our volunteers at our roadshows explain to people why animals matter and why animal cruelty has to end ... Many (afterwards) sign the petition. It shows that Singaporeans do care for issues of no economic value,” said Mr Ng.
That Singaporeans are becoming more aware of animal welfare issues, and taking a more active role in supporting these, should not come as a total surprise.
Over the last 10 years, a number of Singaporeans have started their own animal shelters, taking in abandoned dogs and cats.
Action for Singapore Dog’s (ASD) president Ricky Yeo reckons “at least 20 to 30 individuals or groups have sprung up, just by the number of people that come to us for help or advice”. He said: “You could say the Internet, the green movement help make people more aware about animal cruelty and want to do something about it.”
Many of these animal welfare groups run educational and sterilisation programmes that could have contributed to increased awareness among Singaporeans. For instance, the Cat Welfare Society’s “trap-neuter-release-and-manage” programme of neutering strays and managing the cat population is run by a network of volunteers which number in the hundreds.
Then there are individuals like Ms Lynn Lam, who started a network of some 300 cat welfare volunteers in the west and east of Singapore — as well as the Singapore Zoo’s educational and conservation programmes over the decades. These, too, have contributed to the overall consciousness of animal well-being.
In 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recognised the growth of animal welfare groups in Singapore in his Budget Speech and urged Singaporeans to donate to causes like this. The Government has also decided to broaden the definition of charitable activities to include sports, environment protection and animal welfare.
Acres, meanwhile, is not resting on its laurels — it will continue campaigning for UDAW at its monthly roadshows at shopping centres next year.