Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Asia for Animals Conference 2010 - Resolutions

ACRES, the lead agency in organising the AFA2010 Conference last week in Singapore, today released its resulting resolutions.

The resolutions which were adopted at the conference attended by 390 delegates representing over 200 organisations from 26 countries around the world
are as follows:

Singapore Specific

Call for (as proposed by Action for Singapore Dogs, Animal Lovers League and Cat Welfare Society) the AVA and Town councils to:
  • Revive the discontinued Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme
  • Acknowledge with deep concern the increase in the numbers of animals sacrificed during religious events and festivals
Call for (as proposed by SPCA Singapore) the HDB to:
  • Permit the keeping of cats and medium-sized dogs in HDB flats
Call for (as proposed by Action for Singapore Dogs, Animal Lovers League and Cat Welfare Society) the Government of Singapore to:
  • Implement and/or support TNR programmes that are not only more effective but are also more humane than culling, as a method of long term stray population management
Call for (as proposed by SPCA Singapore) the AVA to:
  • Not grant a license for the importation of dolphins into Singapore by Resorts World of Sentosa
Call for (as proposed by ACRES) the Wildlife Reserves Singapore to
  • End the circus-style elephant shows
  • Improve the living conditions for the ocelots and cougars, according to the ACRES Acceptable Standards for the Well-Being of Animals
  • Improve the living conditions for the show animals at the Night Safari according to the ACRES Acceptable Standards for the Well-Being of Animals

In General

Call for (as proposed by Indonesian Vegetarian Society) all Governments of Asia to:
  • Recognise animals as sentient beings
  • Support the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Call for (as proposed by Mr Azam Siddiqui from India) the Governments of Asia to:
  • Strive for a “Crime Control Bureau” which would connect all the nations of Asia through a network of Individuals and organizations who are experienced in this field, for animal related crimes
Call for (as proposed by Animal Nepal) all Governments of Asia to:
  • Ban the use of animas in blood sacrifices
Urge (as proposed by Animal Nepal) religious leaders to:
  • End the suffering of animals involved in animal sacrifices and promote non-animal alternatives.
Call for (as proposed by Animals Asia Foundation) all Governments of Asia to:
  • End bear farming and all trade in bear products
  • Cease dog and cat culling
  • Cease the consumption of dogs and cats
Call for (as proposed by Blue Cross of India) all Governments of Asia to:
  • Reduce farming of animals that releases methane into the air and contributes to climate change
Call for (as proposed by Born Free Foundation) all Governments of Asia to:
  • End the keeping of wild animals in circuses and travelling menageries
  • Ensure all animals in zoos and other captive animal facilities are provided with conditions that meet their species-specific needs
  • Phase out the keeping of wild animals as pets

Country Specific

Call for (as proposed by Taiwan SPCA) for the Government of Taiwan to:
  • Criminalise the possession, use, buying and selling of gin traps, snares, glue traps and other inhumane trapping devices
Call for the Government of Australia to:
  • Commit funding to improving the detection of CITES Appendix I products being imported into the country
Call for the CITES MA of Qatar to:
  • End the local trade of wildlife in Doha
Call for (as proposed by Korean Animal Welfare Association) the Government of South Korea to:
  • Ban the consumption and trade in dog and cat meat
  • Work towards the introduction of legislation to guarantee the welfare of farm animals
  • End the hunting of wild animals
  • Ban classroom dissections
Call for (as proposed by all Delegates from Nepal present) the Government of Nepal to:
  • Raise a global and common voice to control widespread poaching of the Greater one horned Asian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) in coordination with the national conservation organisations which are working to control rhino poaching
Call for (as proposed by all Philippine Animal Welfare Groups present) the Government of Philippines to:
  • End the dog meat trade
  • Work closely with animal protection NGOs to improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits dog and horse fighting
  • End the exploitation of animals in zoos
  • Ensure all animals in zoos and other captive animal facilities are provided conditions that meet their species specific needs
  • End the exploitation of animals in the tourism industry
  • End the trade in wildlife
  • Integrate humane education into the national education system
  • Make spay neuter programmes for companion animals, a government policy
  • Make government pounds animal welfare friendly
  • Ensure that humane slaughter policies for food animals are strictly followed
  • Not allow greyhound racing to take place in the Philippines
  • Aim for a rabies-free Philippines by 2015 through vaccinations and education
  • Ban the importation of elephants
  • Ban the importation and exportation of dolphins
While important calls were made to agencies in Singapore to do more and improve on the methods used in controlling the stray animal population in Singapore, there were also community-level calls intended to create awareness amongst the general public, such as calling on agencies in Singapore to publically acknowledge that the number of animals used in various religious sacrifice has been on the increase.

In addition, a call for sensibility on the part of the authorities to allow reasonable pet ownership in HDB flats was also made, and also reference to the ongoing issue of ensuring Resorts World of Sentosa does not import dolphins for public amusement.

Overall, the resolutions seem to be specific and achievable, and generally work towards the larger goal of better animal welfare for all sentient beings not of human origin.

A copy of the original AFA2010 Conference Resolutions document is available on this blog for inspection.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Asia for Animals Conference 2010

VegVibe was at the opening ceremony of the AFA2010 that was held from Saturday (16 Jan) to today at the Furama Riverfront Hotel.

The largest gathering of international animal protection activists in Asia to date, 390 delgates representing 207 organisations in 26 countries would have attended the
Asia for Animals Conference 2010, which will be held over 5 days, including pre-conference workshops and post-conference tours, and is a remarkable achievement for a society instituted not long ago in 2001.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (below, right), the Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, graced the occasion as the guest of honour and was appreciative of the colossal effort undertaken by the ACRES
(Animal Concerns Research & Education Society) team in making the conference a successful reality.

He called on different interest groups to
have, what he called 'discourse coalitions' which he explained as people with sometimes-conflicting perspectives coming together to have meaningful conversation which could lead to effective, neutral solutions. He highlighted the September 2007 change to the Animals and Birds (Dog Licensing and Control) Rules that requires newly-licensed dogs to be microchipped, as one such example.

In his speech, Mr Seah sadly noted that all the good effort by the NGO's and the government has not resulted in the reduction of animal abandonment - even after a decade. This reality was punctuated by the fact that 22 abandoned pets are put to sleep every day.

Looking ahead, he advised the audience that whilst passion for the cause was important, the realities of the need for sustenance should not be overlooked. He encouraged animal welfare organisations to recruit and retain talented people, not only in terms of the causes they represent but also in other areas such as fund raising and public relations.

In his closing, he noted the acknowldgement by the European Union's that animals are sentient beings in its Official Journal (excerpt below) and declared that "the call is clarion. We cannot fail those who need our help, by inaction, or worse, by inattention."

Mr Louis Ng (below), Executive Director of ACRES then took the podium to welcome the audience - and duly apologise for his hounding of the delegates. It does seem that Mr Ng single-handedly managed the logistics of the delegates (i.e. registration, liaising, troubleshooting etc.) and he took a few moments to let off the steam by playfully lamenting the overwhleming past year spent organising the event.

Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was proud of the outcome and called the gathering "a conference of optimism and hope". He further noted that whilst the proportion of people who cared deeply about animal welfare was a minority, the challenge for everyone present was to "make this minority into a majority".

He followed this inspiring call to action with a comprehensive review of the regional achievements in combating animal welfare abuses. From RSPCA's good work in increasing awareness among the Australian public; the 265 bears rescued by Animals Asia in China; SPCA Hong Kong's new educational tool on pet care for schools; and the nationwide ban on the sale and display of 'Catapults' in India; to the pilot rabies vaccination programme in Indonesia; introduction of an animal welfare labelling system for the first time in Korea; creation of a coalition of Malaysian NGOs to improve the welfare of captive animals; establishment of a sanctuary for abandoned working donkeys by Animal Nepal; opening of the first and biggest animal rescue centre in the Philippines; 118 educational roadshows and talks conducted by ACRES in Singapore; Taiwan SPCA's appointment as consultants to ensure international animal shelter standards; and the establishment of the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, there was indeed much to rejoice.

He then drew attention to the fact that there was still much more work to be done and noted that the conference was part of that work. Many issues were discussed over the 3 days of papers presented, which were classified into the following broad categories:
  • Running Effective Education Outreach Programmes
  • Improving the Welfare of Animals in Captivity
  • Achieving Long Term Changes for Farm Animals
  • Effective Stray Animals Management
  • Wiping out the Wildlife Trade
  • Effective Stray Animals Management
  • Running a Sustainable Rescue Centre
  • Campaigning for Change (3 sessions)
  • Working with Government Agencies
There were also workshops conducted a day before the conference proper (on 15 Jan) and in the second half of the last day (today) which covered the following issues:
  • Running Effective Education Outreach Programmes (led by Ms. Amy Corrigan of ACRES)
  • Human – Macaque Interface (led by Dr Karthi Krishnasamy)
  • Improving the Welfare of Animals in Captivity (led by Mr. Louis Ng of ACRES)
  • Providing Optimal Veterinary Care (led by Dr. Fiona Woodhouse of SPCA, Hong Kong)
  • Advertising, Spreading the Message Creatively (led by Mr. Juggi Ramakrishnan)
  • Writing to win support for animals (led by Ms. Sharon St. Joan of Best Friends Animal Society)
  • Working with Volunteers (by Mr. Nilesh Bhanage of Plants & Animals Welfare Society, India; and Mr Abodh Aras of The Welfare Of Stray Dogs)

These issues run the gamut of concerns of animal activists, especially in Asia, and much information was shared throughout the conference proceedings. It was apparent that some ideas successfully implemented in one country could be transplanted or adapted to others as necessary - which would certainly be one of the aims of this conference.

Many of the local animal welfare were present, with the Singapore SPCA team noticably in full force and the Vegetarian Society (Singapore) being well-represented by its president Dr George Jacobs who presented on the virtures of Eating Less Meat. New friendships were forged and contact details exchanged during the breaks - the flip side being the unexpected delay in participants returning to the conference hall to continue on with the presentations. The food catered was also vegan - a refreshing change from the typical conference - and came complete with soya milk for the coffee and tea served.

The attention to detail was awe-inspiring, and all the more impressive when considering the small organising team involved. Special mention must also be made to Furama Riverfront Hotel which sponsored the venue.

An incredibly motivating and enriching experience,
there is no doubt that the awareness and support for animal welfare can only grow from strength to strength. Finally, kudos to ACRES for putting humble Singapore onto the world map with regard to animal welfare.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Preparing the Whole Earth Review

If you are looking for a hip, classy joint with impeccable service and delectable vegetarian food, one has to look no further than Whole Earth.

And the VegVibe team recently had the privilege of checking out some of its spread for the reunion dinner packages on offer come February. We were also highly impressed by the establishment's mission and the operational processes it has put in place to achieve those goals.

Situated at a corner unit, Whole Earth's quirky designs permeates to the exterior of the building, with large silhouettes of people and dogs. Once inside, the calming white interior and tasteful designs are pleasing and welcoming. Taking our seats next to a large window panel overlooking the street, we were greeted by Ms Phyllis Ong, one of the partners who run Whole Earth. After the initial pleasantries, we were soon engaged in animated conversation peppered by hearty laughs.

A vegetarian of nine years herself, Phyllis' vision for Whole Earth was to create a dining establishment that vegetarians could easily bring their meat-eating friends to. True to this intention, there is no indication that the restaurant only serves vegetarian food. The focus was thus to ensure that the food tasted good which would bring in the customers - be it vegetarian or meat-eater. In fact, Phyllis was happy to share that several customers only realise (in disbelief) that the food is vegetarian on subsequent visits!

Also, in a unique approach, Whole Earth prefers to work with a team of chefs who create each tantalising dish from scratch without the use of MSG or mock meat. Famed for being the only Pernakan Thai vegetarian restaurant in Singapore, it serves traditional cuisine such as Thai Green Curry and Peranakan Assam Pedas dishes by recreating the flavours without the meat.

On this particular visit, we were treated to their special Chinese New Year menu which features an assortment of dishes, and to begin the sampling, we were first served the ubiquitous Yusheng - but with a twist. Comprising 28 ingredients such as candied beetroot, pomelo, purple cabbage, apricot and green papaya, this colourful dish is served with a fruit enzyme dressing made from tomatoes and green apples instead of the traditional plum sauce. Also, for a Thai twist, bits of lime leaves are added which makes for a piquant and appetising fare.

Next up, was the Nonya Homemade Tofu Fish with Thai Dill Leaves. One of our favourites, we felt slightly guilty about sinking our teeth into the crispy tofu fish. Made with three types of tofu and requiring several hours of preparation, Phyllis explained that due to the manpower required Whole Earth serves about only 20 plates a day. Nevertheless, not only was the tofu free of the usual MSG found in other mock meats, its texture was uncannily similar to the real deal. The clincher was the unique savoury sauce though, a delectable combination of spiciness and sourness yet with the familiar flavour of galangal - typically found in Peranakan cooking.

Instead of longevity noodles that is served during Chinese New Year, Whole Earth remains true to its Thai cuisine by serving Thai Vermicilli Tang Hoon instead. Though milder in flavour than the other dishes, the vermicilli was nonetheless equally delicious, and came studded with winged beans and generously sprinkled with lime leaves. Phyllis, though, was quick to apologise and assured us that the dish would be made more savoury for Chinese New Year.

Though we were filling up quickly, we were still delighted by the Bamboo Pith and Wolfberry with Chinese Spinach, which did not disappoint. Soaked in the rich broth, the sponge-like pith bursts in the mouth with every bite, releasing the essence of the dish. The soft smooth spinach meanwhile was a delight to munch on and despite our bulging tummies, we finished up the entire dish - with some help from Phyllis.

And when we thought we were done for the session, some refreshing lemongrass jelly with longans suddenly appeared! This chilled dessert tantalises the tastebuds with a mild lemongrass aroma and is just lightly sweetened.

Complementing the great food, it was great experience chatting with Ms Phyllis Ong. An obviously fiesty personality, Phyllis shared her guiding philosophy that, as vegetarians living in a non-vegetarian environment, it is important to create an environment that is palatable for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike to enjoy meals together. Once a high-flying regional executive at a cosmetic company, she revealed that she took a big pay cut to follow her convictions.

She shared that she sees money as positive energy and believes that by following her heart, she will be able to achieve success. She hopes to be an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs in the vegetarian community and rightfully pointed out that the more outlets there are, the more the community benefits.

We cannot agree more and Whole Earth is at the forefront with its novel and scrumptious cuisine.

Whole Earth is located at 76 Peck Seah Street (Tel: 63233308) and is open daily from 11.30am to 3.00pm and from 5.30pm to 9.30pm, and will remain open through the Lunar New Year celebrations.

For more information, please visit

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