Greater respect for lives of animals urged


Taipei, Taiwan -- Animal conservationists and religious figures say more must be done to promote respect for the lives of animals. Shih Chuan-fa (釋傳法), who is secretary-general of the Life Conservationist Association (LCA) yesterday criticized the Council of Agricul-ture's decision to put down 28 protected parrots smuggled from Indonesia without waiting for the results of avian flu virus tests on the birds.

Shih said some of the parrots belonged to species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global agreement that regulates the importation and exportation of animals and plants.

"Two species, the Palm Cockatoo and Moluccan Cockatoo, are even protected under CITES Appendix I," Shih said.

Shih said smugglers trade in such parrots because they can be sold for more than US$10,000 each.

Shih noted that the Wildlife Conservation Law (野生動物保育法) states that protected species should be quarantined for examination and then transferred to wildlife shelters or zoos if they pass health tests.

"It's ironic that innocent parrots were killed by Taiwan's rigid animal epidemic prevention or control system," Shih said.

According to the Animals and Plants Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, no avian flu virus was found in samples taken from the parrots.

But bureau officials said killing birds smuggled from countries affected by bird flu was the most effective way to protect people here.

The bureau said its actions were taken in accordance with the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例). Because of the spread of avian bird flu in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, blocking possible sources of the virus from entering the country is necessary and reasonable, officials said.

Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hwei (釋昭慧), an associate professor in religion at Hsuan-chuang University, said the council overreacted in the case of the smuggled parrots and showed a lack of respect for life.

Shih Chao-hwei also criticized the capture and trade of animals in order to free them for religious reasons, saying people were selfish. For years, animal right activists have said the trade in such animals has caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of creatures.

Abe Lin (林雅哲), a veterinarian and LCA member, criticized the breeding of oversized pigs in order to compete in ritual divine pig competitions, saying this showed that the people involved lacked any religious sincerity or love for animals.