Over the past few weeks, social media had been abuzz with reported incidents of animal cruelty. One incident was reported from a chicken farm in Kobeigane where the watchman was seen shooting a dog and later assaulting it with the weapon.
Had proper legislation been in place, such incidents would have been controlled and perpetrators would have been behind bars. But many people continue to be a threat to wildlife as a result of lenient regulations.
However, animal rights activists hope that the proposed Animal Welfare Bill - which has been at a discussion phase for the past 15 years- would be tabled in Parliament in the near future.
They have hopes that the bill would later be enacted and its laws duly implemented. In this backdrop the Daily Mirror sheds light on the Kobeigane incident and why the proposed Animal Welfare Bill is a crucial document.
The video clearly shows how the foreman keeps shooting at a dog with an air rifle after chasing it into a chicken coop. An individual present at the time of incident, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Mirror that such incidents have been happening for the past eight months. “I worked at this farm on a contractual basis and was constructing the coops.
They sometimes kill close to seven or eight dogs per day. On this particular day this man chased after this dog claiming it had rabies. He then kept on shooting and since I couldn’t take it anymore, I started shooting the video. He repeatedly asked me not to as I would have to face repercussions. A few days later I was fired from work and thereafter I decided to release the video on social media. Thereafter several unknown people visited my house and personally threatened me to take the video down. I also have a family and now I have to find a way to earn a living, but these incidents shouldn’t be tolerated at any cost,” the individual said.
He also said that several dogs from neighbouring houses too have gone missing over the past few years. Speculation is rife whether the farm had got anything to do with those incidents as well.
Revelations by area residents
As the incident kept going viral on social media and several media reports were published, the Daily Mirror visited the vicinity of the farm premises located in Hengamuwa, Kobeigane and spoke to a few residents in the area. Situated on a 32 acre plot of land, Buddhima Farm produces over 150,000 eggs per day and is one of the leading egg suppliers in the country.
The Farm was surrounded by a tin fence and residents claimed that the fence had been put up a few days ago.
K. H. A Asanka Anuruddha from the neighbouring plot of land said that his dog went missing a few months ago. “I don’t know what happened and with the recent spike of incidents happening at this farm I wonder whether my dog had to face the same plight. I too work at a neighbouring chicken farm, but it has been surrounded in such a way that keeps animals outside the premises. Except for an occasional snake no other animal could creep through the fence. I wonder why they couldn’t put up this fence when the farm was first built,” asked Anuruddha.
“Sometime ago there was a rumour that the farm had poisoned dogs that entered the premises,” opined Kanthi Wipulangani, a peanut farmer in the area. “I remember an unbearable stench coming from this area and we couldn’t even work at one time. However, it is sad that stray dogs have to face such a plight when they could have easily put up this fence and kept the animals away,” she opined.
Buddima Farm, one of the largest egg suppliers in Sri Lanka
One chicken coop holds up to 17,000 layer chickens Pix by Kushan Pathiraja
J. A Mahathun is also a farmer in the area and had heard of similar incidents being reported. “But I don’t see a reduction in dogs. Maybe they were a few isolated incidents because this area has many chicken farms and there needs to be a way to protect the chickens from dogs and other pests. But there would have been a better way to chase them away rather than shooting and brutally beating a dog to death,” said Mahathun.
“I lost my dog a few months back and I have my suspicions,” said L. P Champa, a shopkeeper in the area. “It was like family to us and I don’t have a clue as to what has happened to it. However much he travels he would come home for his meals, but he never returned,” said Champa.
The Daily Mirror then visited Sri VijayaSunandarama Viharaya, situated within a one kilometre radius from the farm. However the Chief Prelate of the Temple wasn’t aware of such an incident and claimed that he hasn’t had time to watch television or read a newspaper.
A 15-year struggle to replace 113-year-old laws
The proposed Animal Welfare Bill replaces the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance No. 13 of 1907 and bring the laws in line with modern legislation by providing for natural justice and basic freedoms to be extended to animals. “We have been discussing it since 2005,” said Jagath Gunawardena, attorney-at-law and environmental activist. “The existing law is the Cruelty to Animals Ordinance and it has various negative rights. Therefore, there are no rights given for animals.
But the proposed Animal Welfare Bill has listed a series of positive rights where people have to adhere to certain rules and regulations when dealing with animals. As such, rights have been provided by the Bill along with a series of guidelines on the welfare of captive animals. Although it had been proposed in 2005 and discussed in 2007, due to certain objections by religious groups on humane killings and other areas there was a major delay in tabling it in Parliament. We are 15 years behind and hope that it would be passed soon,” said Gunawardena.
However, the Daily Mirror learns that the Attorney General’s Department has made its comments on the Bill and that the report had been sent to the Ministry of Livestock. The legal draftsman has to make the final changes.
I remember an unbearable stench coming from this area and we couldn’t even work at one time
Maybe they were a few isolated incidents because this area has many chicken farms and there needs to be a way to protect the chickens from dogs and other pests
I lost my dog a few months back and I have my suspicions. It was like family to us and I don’t have a clue as to what has happened to it
-L. P Champa
“Dog had rabies, Media exaggerated”
With that in mind the Daily Mirror fired a call to the Buddhima Farm proprietor J. M Jayasundara alias ‘Jayathilaka mudalali’. He asked us to visit him at his other farm situated on another 42 acre plot of land. “It had been over a month since this incident took place,” he recalled while speaking to this writer. This particular dog had rabies and it was trying to bite a lady that was putting chicken feed.
Our foreman has been working with us since 1994 and he looks after the farm like his own property. Layer chickens tend to get excited when they spot a new animal and as a result they climb on top of one another. Thereafter they break their legs and are unable to hatch eggs. On the day of the incident 47 of them died. So the foreman had started shooting the dog with his service rifle. Some people who worked there on a contractual basis had then captured the incident on video.,” said Jayasundara.
Layer chickens tend to get excited when they spot a new animal and as a result they climb on top of one another. Thereafter they break their legs and are unable to hatch eggs. On the day of the incident 47 of them died. So the foreman had started shooting the dog with his service rifle
-J. M Jayasundara
He then said that the person who shot the video had been charged for various offences. According to Jayasundara he had allegedly engaged in kassippu (moonshine) and weed businesses at the farm. According to him the foreman hadn’t allowed it and as means of seeking revenge, the contractual worker had released the video on social media. “This incident ruined my image,” Jayasundara continued while breaking into tears. “On top of that there were exaggerated media reports which claimed that I pay Rs. 500 for the foreman to kill a dog and that I sell dog meat at my hotel. All these are lies.
I have been doing this business for the past 34 years. Why would I want to pay Rs. 500 to kill a dog when I supply over 150,000 eggs per day. Nobody talks about our contribution to curb malnutrition in the country. In 2007 I won an award for the Best Chicken Farm and I have a workforce of 150. I’m sure dogs can be seen inside the farm premises even today. In that case you would have witnessed if any one of them was shot. I’m a Buddhist and I have built an image for myself. But now I can’t even face my family, friends or business partners,” complained Jayasundara.
When contacted, the Kobeigane Police told the Daily Mirror that the foreman had been taken into custody and was further remanded till February 3.
The existing law is the Cruelty to Animals Ordinance and it has various negative rights. Therefore, there are no rights given for animals
A fence put up a few days ago
A dog loitering at the farm premises
Highlights of the proposed Bill
The proposed Animal Welfare Bill aims to:
- Recognise a duty of care on part of persons in charge of animals to treat animals humanely
- Prevent cruelty to animals and secure the protection and welfare of animals
- Establish a National Animal Welfare Authority and to provide for *Regulations and Codes of Practice
- Raise community awareness on animal welfare and foster kindness, compassion and responsible behaviour towards animals
The Bill has also redefined the term ‘animal’ to encompass every living being other than human beings. The current law applies only to captive or domestic animals, excluding important areas such as wildlife without any protection. The Animal Welfare Bill also includes legislation on pet shops, animal experimentation, animal performance and the live transport of animals.
Sections 24, 25 and 26 elaborates on various means of cruelty towards animals with fines reaching up to Rs. 50,000 or Rs. 100,000 with imprisonment up to four years depending on the case. The Bill relates to cruel killing of animals as well as killing pregnant animals.
Sections 27-36 includes the unlawful conducts such as setting traps to capture animals, unlawful confinement of birds, permitting diseases or disabled animals to public places, abandonment of animals, treatment by unqualified persons, unlawful castration or sterilisation of animals, use of animals for testing cosmetics, causing pain or distress to animals for sale, unlawful sale of animals suffering in pain and making available an animal for hunting. Those found guilty of any of these offences would have to pay a fine not exceeding Rs. 20,000 or be subject to a one year jail term or both.
By passing the proposed Animal Welfare Bill, it will not only end many incidents of animal cruelty, but will also set the pace to bring about a just society where humans and animals could coexist.