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The Sri Lankan cabinet passed a long-awaited animal welfare bill just days after American pop star Cher called a state-run elephant orphanage.
The project was presented to the cabinet on January 10 by the Sri Lankan Minister of Agriculture. It aims to protect animals from cruelty and torture.
Animal Welfare Bill in Sri Lanka
The Animal Welfare Bill was drafted 15 years ago to replace a century-old law, but has been delayed for a number of reasons.
One of the most important parts of the bill is the legal definition of “animal”. The old law defined an animal as a domesticated or captured animal.
But the new draft has broadened the scope to mean any living being other than a human being. The punishment for cruelty will also change if the bill passes through parliament.
The existing penalty is a fine of at least Rs 100 ($0.5) or imprisonment which cannot exceed three months. The new law provides for fines of up to Rs 150,000 ($740) and longer prison terms.
Some of the proposed new offenses include abandoning animals, willfully withholding food and water, and castration or neutering unless performed by a veterinarian.
Cher calls out the Elephant Orphanage on Twitter
Sri Lanka regularly makes headlines for cruelty to animals. The week before the bill was passed, a video of two baby elephants in a river at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage went viral.
the video posted on Twitter by Rally for Animal Rights and the Environment (RARE) received thousands of views after Cher commented on the baby elephant’s treatment.
Cher said: “Does that seem okay, human to anyone? These babies look terrified, they want their mother.
On the same day, Cher tweeted about the treatment of elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand.
There is still a lot of work to do…
The approval of the bill was well received by PETA Asia. Its senior vice president for Asia, Jason Baker, notes that this signals progress for the animal rights movement across the country.
Baker added that work still needs to be done. “The bill does little to protect typical farm animals, like chickens, which are perhaps the most abused animals on the planet,” he said.
The bill still has to go through several stages before it can be implemented.