ANIMAL WELFARE AND BEHAVIOR:
Issues and Initiatives in the Philippines
Paper presented in the course, ANSC 430A/530A, Graduate Seminar in Animal Welfare and AGSCI 421, Animal Welfare and the Ethics of Animal Use. Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
With the passage of the Republic Act Number 8485 in February 1998, otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, a boost in the awareness and understanding of animal welfare and its behavioral considerations come into view. The purpose of this Act is to protect and promote the welfare of all animals in the country for supervising and regulating the establishment and operation of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals either as objects of trade or as household pets. This is a long awaited endeavor since in other countries, laws pertaining to the protection of animal rights have been passed and implemented long before. In the United States of America, as early as 1955, humane slaughter regulation had already been introduced in the Senate.
The welfare of animals is an issue that has become increasingly important not only with companion animals, but also with draft and production animals. Emphasis should also be given to those used in research and with wildlife species in captivity, such as zoos and private animal collections. Although there exists some organizations that promote welfare education, e.g. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), their concerns are more on companion animals and do not have a mass base.
Aside from information campaign, research activities should support animal welfare issues. Ethology, the study of animal behavior, is a scientific discipline that has been used to investigate and explain the normal and abnormal behavior of animals and their implications to welfare concerns.
EDUCATION AND AWARENESS
The promotion of animal welfare issues has been almost absent and is present only on very few occasions in the print media. Out of the 98 State Colleges and Universities (SCU's) in the country and 321 national and private institutions offering agriculture-related degrees, there is no single specific course that is being offered regarding animal welfare and behavior. Even at the College of Agriculture (CA) and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) of the country's premier agricultural institution, University of the Philippines Los Baños, welfare issues are just mentioned in passing in domestic animal production courses, or none at all. It is in this light that a course entitled, "Animal Behavior and Welfare," is being proposed to tackle the important issues relevant to the production enterprise.
Educational institutions have an obligation to teach and prepare students the basic of animal welfare so that they could understand in depth ethics and humane stewardship of animals. This knowledge will prepare them professionally and respond effectively to challenges of their chosen field and probably, from animal rights proponents. Animal rights activists could be classified as moderate to extreme, depending on the issues being presented as could be seen in the Animal Bill of Rights.
Focus on animal welfare issues, must be on the following:
From the Annotated Bibliography on Philippine Biodiversity: Livestock and Poultry (Agrobiodiversity), 1949-1997; Dairy Cattle, a compilation of published and completed but unpublished researches for a span of 48 years, only two (2) original studies on dairy cattle behavior were noted. This clearly shows the absence of information and its understanding through scientific inquiries into the problems and theories associated with behavior and welfare of dairy cattle. However, a number of studies have been done mainly in the transport of swine, poultry and beef cattle but concentrated only on its effects on the yield and quality of the products after slaughter.
The direction of welfare related research must be on the following points:
Aside from the deficiencies in public awareness, education and research back-up, the lack of properly trained research personnel and teachers in this novel scientific field is foreseen as a hindrance, although with the efforts of a few dedicated individuals, progress could be achieved. It is also envisioned that a Center for Animal Welfare be established to support and sustain the above initiatives. This Center will focus on research and promotion of education concerning animal welfare and behavior, and serve as a source of knowledge and expertise for the development of welfare guidelines and recommend appropriate technologies.
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