Over the years, animal welfare has increased recognition and awareness in the country. While the Philippines issued its first animal welfare national legislation only in 1998, it is the first Asian country to have such a legislation.
The concept of animal welfare, however, has always been confused with animal rights, to the extent that they are being used interchangeably by those who claim to be in the know. In fact, as we live in the digital world now, the disparity between animal welfare and animal rights have existed for thousands of years. The truth of the matter is that animal welfare and animal rights are different animals.
Animal rightists believe that animals have rights and thus, should not be used by humans for whatever purpose including food. Thus, the influx of veganism or plant-based diet. They regard the use of animals by humans as a form of exploitation and hence, advocate the ban of the use of animals because, for them, animals should not be regarded as property or things to be used for food, clothing, entertainment and even for work and as subjects for research. Proponents of animal rights advocacy agree that the interest of animals should not be seconded or overruled because human interest is at stake. For them, using animals is morally wrong as they are entitled to their own right to existence and the right to be protected from any suffering.
On the other hand, animal welfare groups are more accepting that animals can be used to benefit humans. However, while so, animals must be treated as humanely as possible and that they should not be exposed or subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering.
While the two concepts differ, their common ground is that animals should be treated humanely and that the infliction of pain or suffering to animals is morally wrong. Both welfare and right advocates agree that animals are sentient beings and as such, they can feel and suffer.
In the Philippines, our animal protection laws are based on the animal welfare concept. The definition of animal welfare under Republic Act (RA) 8485 as Amended by RA 10631, otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of the Philippines as Amended, was in fact taken from the international standards and principles called the Five Basic Freedoms of Animals: Freedom from hunger and thirst, Freedom from discomfort, Freedom from pain, injury and disease, Freedom to express normal behavior and Freedom from fear and distress. Simply, these five basic freedoms respond to the basic needs of the animals for food, water, shelter, veterinary medical care, play and exercise and most importantly, love, care, and compassion.
Under our law, animal welfare “pertains to the physical and psychological well-being of animals. It includes, but not limited to, the avoidance of abuse, maltreatment, cruelty, and exploitation of animals by humans by maintaining appropriate standards of accommodation, feeding and general care, the prevention, and treatment of disease and the assurance of freedom from fear, distress, harassment, and unnecessary discomfort and pain, and allowing animals to express normal behavior."
The rules lay down the standard for humane care, use and treatment of animals and thus, the law prohibits and criminalizes maltreatment, cruelty, abuse, neglect, abandonment of animals.
The Philippine law, recognizing the great importance of animals for humans, is focused on the protection and promotion of the welfare of animals used for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals as objects of trade or household pets.
Regardless of which concept one adheres to, the promotion and protection of the welfare of animals is a paramount consideration for both welfarists and the rightists.
As an animal welfare organization, AKF is focused on the same concept that animals have feelings too and thus, they need to be protected from any form of cruelty, maltreatment, and abuse. Hence, its campaigns are directed on the reduction of animal cruelty, animal welfare promotion, and awareness, including legislation.
The current laws may not be enough as yet to cover the field of animal protection. Nevertheless, it suffices to inculcate animal welfare in every Filipino citizen provided strict implementation is had and both the government and the NGOs partner in the spread of animal welfare education.
Needless to state, animal welfare legislation is a growing organism in itself. As we progress as a nation, the need for improved welfare laws develops with time and the current situation.
That thing called animal welfare has become a byline, a tag line, a slogan, a cry for both netizens and actual citizens. The social media have been flooded with posts showing animals, both in good, amusing and bad welfare state furthering awareness about people and their relationship with animals. We believe that this is a favorable development for animals.
As humans increasingly realize the significant contribution and importance of animals in his/her daily life and their impact in the ecosystem, there is a need to ensure that humans recognize its responsibility to care and protect the welfare and needs of the animals through a respectable cohabitation.
Editor's Note: The column CLAWs Protection will come out every second Sunday of the month.
AKF rehabilitates and re-homes the rescued dogs and a few cats from its shelter in Capas, Tarlac. This haven for the rescued animals was built in 2006 and is purely operating on donations. Please visit #AKFanimalrescue on FB or email AKF at: email@example.com